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Healthcare workers plan weekly walkout of Las Vegas hospital due to COVID-19 working conditions

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A group of union workers plans to walk out of a Las Vegas hospital weekly due to alleged unsustainable working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1107 said its members will participate in "Walk Out Wednesdays" at Sunrise Hospital to bring awareness to "untenable working conditions."

“If you are going to call us heroes in public then treat us like heroes in private," surgical tech Erika Watanabe said. "While all of us are here making a sacrifice HCA CEOs are talking about the profit they’re making because of the high degree of acuity in COVID-19 patients. They need to stop obsessing over profits and make sure hospital workers have everything they need to care for patients."

The union alleges that Sunrise Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare, is not providing sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) or COVID-19 testing to keep patients and families safe. The union is also asking the hospital pay hazard pay for healthcare professionals working the frontlines of the pandemic.

The union said the walkouts will continue every Wednesday through the end of December. Hospital workers will walk out on their break or at the end of a shift in protest. 

Sunrise Hospital CEO Todd Sklamberg said the union is using the COVID-19 pandemic as a "bargaining chip."

Our number one priority remains the safety of our colleagues and our patients. Since day one, we have had plenty of supplies on hand that are easily accessible to our caregivers and continue to have the supplies needed to keep our staff and patients safe. We have a PPE depot for distribution of supplies 24/7 and a steward who ensures our team has the equipment they need. We have followed all CDC requirements and guidelines regarding PPE inventories.

We follow CDC guidelines about employee testing which recommends the testing of individuals with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or that may have known exposure to an individual who has tested positive. Our hospitals have extensive protections in place to prevent exposure to COVID-19 including universal masking, which requires staff in all areas to wear masks in line with CDC guidance. Everyone entering our hospitals, including colleagues, visitors, and physicians are screened for COVID-19 symptoms and are not permitted to enter if they have exposures or symptoms.

At a time of a national nursing shortage during the most critical public health crisis the world is experiencing, it astounds us that the SEIU would attempt to use COVID-19 as a bargaining chip to the point of suggesting their members walk out, which would be a violation of their contract.

We encourage the union to work with, not against, us during a time when the entire healthcare community should be coming together to protect and care for each other and our communities.

– Todd P. Sklamberg, CEO, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center and Sunrise Children’s Hospital