Nurses protest outside Sutter Tracy
by Michael Langley
Nov 22, 2013 | 6957 views | 5 5 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sutter Tracy Community Hospital nurses and family members hold a candlelight vigil outside the hospital Wednesday, Nov. 20, to protest working conditions at the hospital.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Sutter Tracy Community Hospital nurses and family members hold a candlelight vigil outside the hospital Wednesday, Nov. 20, to protest working conditions at the hospital. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
A candlelight vigil outside Sutter Tracy Community Hospital on Wednesday, Nov. 20, was designed to call attention to the concerns of local nurses who say the hospital is losing beds and jobs.

The California Nurses Association, which has been negotiating a contract with the hospital since June 2012, organized the event with Tracy nurses. About 30 people, including Sutter Tracy nurses and their families, demonstrated along Tracy Boulevard.

Dotty Nygard is a registered nurse in the Sutter Tracy emergency room with 17 years of experience.

“There’s an incredibly important issue that’s come up at the bargaining table,” Nygard said. “Administration has come up with a plan to redesign staffing up on our (medical-surgical) unit by shifting nurses off the floor and into other departments to fill vacancies.”

Part of that plan, she said, is to turn double-occupancy rooms for patients who need to stay in the hospital into rooms with only one bed.

Sutter Tracy CEO David M. Thompson, in an interview the next morning, said the hospital is creating single rooms to make a nicer experience for patients and their families.

“The trend nationally has been fewer patients in beds,” Thompson said. “We have a population that has large families, and it makes it easier for them to be with their loved ones.”

Candy Meservy, a registered nurse, works in the hospital’s surgery department as a pre-op and patient-care nurse. Even she isn’t sure what the realignment of rooms will mean in the long term.

“It’s a semantic thing,” Meservy said. “Is it a loss of beds? Eventually you have a nursing staff geared to this now-scaled-down amount of beds.”

The Sutter Tracy CEO said the hospital can easily wheel a bed back into a single room to care for more patients.

“It has nothing to do with staffing. Nothing,” Thompson said. “Staffing is not dependent on how many beds are in the room. Staffing is dependent on how many patients are in the room. So it doesn’t matter if there is a person in one bed and there is an empty bed in the room.”

Meservy, who has been a nurse for 33 years, also worries about a trend of hospital administrators relying upon short-term contract nurses, called travelers, to bridge gaps in nurse staffing.

“Our policies, procedures and things we do may be a little different than somewhere else,” Meservy said. “So that can increase your error rate just because they are not as familiar. And the familiarity makes it much better and safer.”

Thompson said the hospital has four nursing positions open right now and uses travelers only in short-term situations.

“The reason we use travelers is that we’re actively looking for permanent staff,” Thompson said. “In fact, there were interviews as recent as the last two weeks which included staff from the department on the interview panel. They elected that with those open positions, they would rather go and hire three people from the outside rather than people from inside the organization.”

Nygard believes the hospital has eliminated 10 positions and worries about further cuts and changes.

“What we want to provide our community is that dedicated care,” the ER nurse said. “Not by jeopardizing whether or not we have enough beds or nurses to take care of the community.”

Thompson — who didn’t know the nurses were planning a demonstration until an offhand comment by Tracy City Councilwoman Nancy Young during the Tuesday, Nov. 19, council meeting — would not say whether he thought the candlelight vigil was a strategic move by the union.

“We are in active bargaining,” Thompson said. “I was unaware that there was going to be any sort of a vigil at the hospital. So I think one can draw their own conclusions as to whether these concerns are real or this is a bargaining tactic. My focus is on providing safe care for the patients and that we have enough staff.”

• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at 830-4231 or

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November 23, 2013
Sutter's is not the benevolent non-profit they paint themselves to be. They have cut services to the community that we all remember from the old pre-Sutter's days. They have reworked the hospital Foundation so that Tracy donations now go to Modesto Sutter's, as do a lot of the patients who arrive by ambulance ( many times ambulances are deferred due to staffing, bed or other issues) . If the bed count drops, so does the number of staff. Sure, they can slide those second beds back into the rooms as needed, but they will not have people available to take care of that number of patients. We need to look long and hard at what if actually going on here. Is Sutter really trying to make our hospital an excellent resource for the citizens of Tracy, or are they making it an excellent source of profit for Sutter Health?
November 23, 2013
So funny that you mention Obama Care since SUTTER backed this bill, more insurance means more patients, more waiting, and now less rooms, more money for Sutter, wake up people!! Nurses work harder for less in Tracy, They voted in a UNION 2 years ago, Sutter is about Profit, not Fairness to anyone!!!!!!!
November 23, 2013
Staffing has everything to do with the amount of patients are in the hospital. If there is only on patient per room, the need for Nurses will drop, the need for housekeepers will drop, and need staff will drop. It's not just about how unfair & unrealistic it is to think a hospital can run effectively like this. Sutter is a corporate monster, trying to a make a bang for their buck! They are NOT a non-profit hospital. A non-profit hospital would not be trying to increase marketing tactics by single rooms. Nurses should NOT be put on on-call for less then minimum wage, while they wait around for the admissions to go up. It's unfair for the patient who is truly ill to wait in the ER for HOURS on a hard GURNEY, while staffing scrams for a room and nurse to become available. Every patient in a single room will receive a single room bill! MONEY IS THE MOTIVE! This is life and death, the sick need treatment not a vacation! A hospital is NOT A SPA. OUR COMMUNITY DESERVES BETTER! The nurses deserve better. They need a contract. They deserve one! They Deserve compotent core staff, their health insursance to be affordable, & THEY DESERVE TO BE PROUD TO WORK FOR SUTTER TRACY! MAKE IT HAPPEN
November 22, 2013
In the midst of the ACA "ObamaCare" overhaul it makes no sense to negotiate any new union contracts. The payout schedules and Sutter's relative participation may heavily impact healthcare cost structures. Union needs too cool their jets until their pet legislation settles in.
November 22, 2013
Very one sided article, Sutter is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and will milk Tracy for all it worth!!!!!

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