LA County, nurses reach tentative agreement to avert strike

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A tentative agreement was reached late Monday between Los Angeles County nurses and the county to avert a planned strike set to begin Tuesday.

Thousands of nurses across Los Angeles County were prepared to begin a four-day strike after 98 percent of nurses represented by Service Employees International Union voted to authorize an Unfair Labor Practice strike.

The nurses planned to hit the picket lines at 7 a.m. in several locations, including Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center.

Late Monday, a tentative agreement between the two sides was reached.

"This means that the County's registered nurses will remain on the job, serving vulnerable patients who depend on them and preventing widespread service disruptions that a strike would have caused across our massive health care system," county Chief Executive Officer Sachi A. Hamai said in a statement.

"Following ratification of this agreement by the members of SEIU 721, the County looks forward to moving forward in a collaborative effort to continue providing our broad array of medical and public health services that so many of our constituents rely on," Hamai added.

Union members must still approve of the deal.

Cynthia Mitchel planned to walk the picket line along with more than 7,000 other LA County nurses, citing a lack of retention among nurses.

"I would like to see the county invest in more nurses," Mitchel said. "We have a chronic retention crisis."

An ER nurse at LA+USC Medical Center for 18 years, Mitchel said nurses are overworked and alleges patient-to-nurse ratios are also too high, putting patients at risk.

Mitchel said one nurse should be caring for one, or sometimes two critical care patients. Instead, it's often one nurse to three patients.

The conditions, she said, contributes to nurses leaving.

"We have hired 100 nurses in three years and out of 100 nurses in three years, 66 nurses have left within those three years," Mitchel said.

Other locations where picketing was planned to take place included Harbor-UCLA in Torrance, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey and High Desert Regional Health Center in Lancaster.
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