DALY CITY, Calif. — Nurses and other workers at the Seton Medical Center here led a successful fight two years ago to keep the hospital from closing, something that would have created a health care desert in this mostly working-class city south of San Francisco.
Now the nurses are fighting against unacceptable conditions at the hospital. “Most of all we need adequate supplies and more staffing,” intensive-care nurse Emely Collado told this Militant worker-correspondent June 23 as she picketed during a two-day strike called by the California Nurses Association.
Necessities like oxygen, surgery supplies, towels and even bedsheets have been lacking. Given these conditions, Collado said, there has been a big turnover of nurses. Many of the hospital patients are on Medi-Cal and Medicare.
The nurses are protesting the bosses’ decision to close a skilled nursing facility for elderly patients who need ongoing treatment and a geriatric psychiatric unit that has been closed for seismic repairs.
The nurses have been in contract negotiations since December 2021. According to union spokesperson Julie Tran, hospital management has consistently missed scheduled negotiations. A large “Wanted” sign was posted at the picket line with a photo of hospital manager Sarkis Vartanian, asking anyone who knows his whereabouts to contact the union bargaining team.
Collado and other nurses on the line told the Militant they had been active in the earlier fight to keep the hospital open. Because of those protests, money was “found” to remain open, with the proviso that the hospital become profitable in the future. Now Vartanian claims the nurses’ contract demands are “unrealistic” and that the hospital cannot afford more staff or a wage increase.
Joel Britton, Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of California, joined the picket line June 23. “These nurses need support. Seton Medical Center is a case study in how the medical care for profit system is stacked against working people,” he said. “Our unions need to get the word out and win solidarity, and to fight for universal, government-guaranteed health care for all.”