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Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 
Judge issues order to halt planned nurses strike
By Lisa Rapaport -- Staff Writer
The Sacramento Bee

A SACRAMENTO SUPERIOR Court judge issued a temporary restraining order
Wednesday to halt a nurses strike planned Thursday at the five
University of California teaching hospitals statewide, including UC
Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

UC officials praised the ruling as one that will protect patients and
said they will immediately start spreading the word to nurses that they
must now report to work Thursday. At UC Davis -- where the emergency
room and several intensive care units were closed this week -- hospital
officials said those patient services will not be restored at least
until Thursday morning when they see how many nurses actually report for

The previous contract between UC and the California Nurses Association
expired April 30. It was extended three times as talks continued. But
earlier this month union leaders urged nurses to vote for a strike after
the two sides failed to reach agreement on several key issues, including
staffing levels, pensions and wages.

At issue in court was whether the union followed bargaining rules laid
out in state law for public education employees. In court papers
requesting an order to stop the strike, the Public Employment Relations
Board said union leaders skipped several required steps in contract
negotiations that must legally occur before a strike is permissible.

Under state public education labor law, when two sides can't iron out a
contract agreement, one of the parties must ask the labor board to
formally declare negotiations at an impasse. Then, a state labor
mediator would be brought in to facilitate additional bargaining
sessions. A neutral fact-finder can also investigate issues that have
blocked a deal, such as the disagreement between UC and the union over
whether to dictate rules for minimum nurse staffing levels in the

Because those steps have not happened, the planned strike was illegal,
the labor board determined after investigating at the request of UC

Union leaders agree bargaining stalled, but say the strike was legal
because it was planned in response to labor law violations by UC during
negotiations. UC refused to negotiate on several issues considered deal
breakers by the union, labor officials said.

Legal or not, the planned one-day strike has already had a big impact on
patients at UC medical centers in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los
Angeles, Irvine and San Diego.

UC Davis stopped taking critical pediatric transfer patients last
Thursday to prepare for the strike, court papers show. Friday, the
Sacramento teaching hospital started refusing to take complex patients
so it could prepare to shut down the emergency room and intensive care

Those turned away so far at UC Davis include a patient scheduled for
open-heart surgery, a patient in need of a implantable pump to keep
blood moving through the heart, and a patient in need of an aneurysm
repair, court records show.

In addition, UC Davis, the only evidentiary center for crime victims in
the Sacramento region, planned not to accept crime victims during the
strike. The hospital also cancelled elective surgeries and organ

UC Davis hospital executives did not hire replacement workers for the
strike, a decision made to maintain strong relations with employees that
also forced the Sacramento hospital to cut back patient services more
than the other UC hospitals, which did hire replacements.

Still, UC San Francisco Medical Center stopped accepting new patients
Friday, court records show. The hospital also stopped taking high-risk
pregnancy patients, cancelled pediatric surgeries for the week of July
18, rescheduled dialysis patients, delayed bone marrow transplants, and
cancelled elective pediatric cancer treatments.

UCLA Medical Center cancelled transplants, all neurosurgery and vascular
surgery, and limited transfers from other hospitals, records show.

UC San Diego stopped scheduling elective surgeries, halted cardiac
diagnostic tests, cancelled elective Caesarian sections, and reduced
mid-wife services for the poor, records show.

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