LYNWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- Health care workers at St. Francis Medical Center and three other medical facilities in Southern California walked off the job Monday, starting a five-day strike over what union officials call unfair labor and dangerous patient care practices.
The strike includes nurses and other medical personnel at St. Francis in Lynwood - one of the largest healthcare facilities in Los Angeles County - Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Garden Grove Hospital Medical Center and Encino Hospital Medical Center.
All four facilities are operated by Prime Healthcare.
UNAC/UHCP and SEIU-UHWH, the unions representing around 1,800 workers, say they are chronically short-staffed which they claim create dangerous patient care practices.
Prime Healthcare acquired St. Francis during the pandemic due to bankruptcy. Some workers were laid off and that put a strain on staffing.
"We need better working conditions, we need better patient ratios. The compensation does not come anywhere close to the surrounding communities so it's very difficult to retain nurses, retain staff," said Alicia Ambriz, a registered nurse of about 30 years. "They go to the other facilities that pay them higher wages. The company knows that it pays one of the lowest wages and they're OK with that."
Ambriz said their demands include adding more staff and offering competitive salaries so that the staff can be retained.
"We have people working 20-hour shifts, 18-hour shifts. You don't get your lunch breaks, you don't get your 10-minute breaks. You keep coming to a list of ongoing patients that's never-ending," said Mayra Castaneda, an ultrasound technician at St. Francis.
In a statement, Prime Healthcare said it continues to bargain in good faith "with the goal of reaching agreements in the best interests of our hospitals, employees, and most importantly, those who we serve. Proposals have been delivered to the unions that would increase wages and provide comprehensive benefit programs, including healthcare, that is among the best in the nation at little to no cost to employees. We believe the current proposal benefits all our employees and hope to reach an agreement so we can continue our mission of providing compassionate, quality care to patients."
Both sides are set to return to the bargaining table on Thursday. Prime Healthcare says the hospitals will remain open and staffed during the strike, which is set to end Friday.
This strike comes after thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers also walked off the job for three days last week.