Arrowhead Regional Medical Center nurses strike over pay

COLTON, Calif. (KABC) -- A scheduled two-day nurses strike began outside San Bernardino County's Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton Tuesday morning. Many of the hospital's patients have been transported to other facilities.

Hundreds of registered nurses marched outside the hospital to demand higher pay. The strike started at 7 a.m. Tuesday and is planned to run until 7 a.m. Thursday. There were fewer nurses on the picket line Tuesday evening than there were at lunchtime.

"Unfortunately we make 30-percent less than other hospitals in the area," said Arrowhead nurse Lieu Vo.

Consequently, once nurses are trained at Arrowhead, the union says, most of them leave for better jobs.

"That's not conducive to safe patient care, it really isn't," said Vo.

But San Bernardino County says these publicly paid nurses will get a pension, something the county says they probably wouldn't get in the private sector.

"What the nurses want right now in terms of wages are something that the taxpayers just can't afford coming out of a recession," said San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert.

The strike has caused a lot of frustration for people who came to the hospital for help.

"I can't tell them that they don't deserve it, but at the same time, we need them," said San Bernardino resident Misha Booker.

Because there are only a third of the nurses that would normally be here, many patients have been moved.

"This has forced the county to move more than 150 patients to hospitals as far away as Blithe, San Diego, San Dimas, Temecula, and some of these were very sick people who probably shouldn't have been transported," said Wert.

But if there's a real emergency, these nurses say they're ready to help.

"If something happens to a patient right now, if there's a traumatic accident and they need us to come in there, we will really drop the signs, run in there, assess the situation and take care of the patient," said Vo.

The walk-out is scheduled to end Thursday at 7 a.m. If there's one thing that both sides can agree on, it's that as far as the negotiation is concerned, they're still very far apart.

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