Barton nurses picket Friday in front of hospital

Nurses strike Friday, Sept. 20, across the street from Barton Memorial Hospital.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — They chanted. They held signs. And they’re hoping Barton Memorial Hospital takes notice.

Well over 100 nurses from Barton picketed Friday, Sept. 20, directly across the street from the hospital hoping to break an impasse over contract negotiations that have been ongoing since the spring of 2018.

This is the nurses second one-day strike. The first happened in late May. The California Nurses Association had informed Barton in February of a strike, but it was called off as both sides walked back to the negotiating table.

“We’re out here for healthcare,” said Beth Dameral who has worked at Barton for 26 years, 23 as a registered nurse. “We gave them a proposal in June 2018 and we have yet to get a response. We are fighting high cost healthcare, high premiums, high deductibles, high out of pocket and we’re looking to change that with the proposal we set forth.”

The nurses planned to strike throughout the day and hold several rallies.

“I think we’ll see more in the afternoon as the day goes on,” said Kelli Teteak, an intensive care unit nurse for 20 years, registered for 16. “We have a very strong bargaining unit of about 179 nurses.”

Barton doesn’t agree with the union’s characterization of its health plans nor did they think it was the reason for the strike due to CNA arranging to have nurses from about a dozen hospitals in three states walk out on the same day.

There were also negotiations scheduled for Sept. 24-25, said Barton Director of Public Relations Mindi Befu.

“We are disappointed that the California nurses’ union called this strike,” Befu said in an email. “Barton was presented a comprehensive economics package including wages and healthcare benefits in July, and Barton responded to the wage proposal on August 27. Due to an unanticipated change in healthcare brokers, the healthcare package will be presented in October. In the meantime, Barton employees continue to be offered three healthcare benefit plans where the most popular plan costs between $20-$60 per paycheck depending on family size.”

Befu said Barton provides plans with differing deductibles.

Two of the plans are PPOs with different premiums and annual deductibles ($750 or $2,500) and the third is a high-deductible health savings account that falls between the two PPOs in terms of cost, but includes a deductible that must be met before financial benefits kick in.

She added all three health plans include reductions if the employee participates in Barton’s wellness plan, which helps employees achieve optimum health by offering education, classes, and support toward other health-related goals such as weight loss and smoking cessation.

Romie Navarro, an emergency room nurse for 13 years, is frustrated he was standing outside Friday and would like to be at work doing what he loves.

He says holding a strike is a last resort and feels like Barton is punishing the nurses for striking.

“This is the last thing we want to be is out here,” Navarro said. “We want to be taking care of the citizens here in South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County. This is the last thing we want to do. And Barton is punishing us. We only had a one-day strike and they are locking us out for four days after this and we can’t go back to our jobs.”

Befu told the Tribune the staffing agency Barton works with “requires a five-day minimum for replacement nurses and that is standard.”

The nurses may return to work Sept. 25.

“Barton hospital says that, but if you look historically at other strikes in California, some of it may be currently happening at this time, other nurses are being allowed to go back to work after their one-day strike,” Dameral said. “That’s a hospital choice.”

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