Local nurses cry ‘patients before profit’

Healthcare workers rally in Renton and Providence Headquarters

Recent cuts at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle have had real-world impacts on patients going there. Recently, a patient at Swedish was repeatedly poked by nurses attempting to get an IV in.

A family member was aware of the IV process and knew the patient had been poked too many times. They threatened a lawsuit, Nursing Assistant Certified (NAC) David Antwi said. And then a member of the IV team came in and put it in the patient on the first try.

This was because the IV team has been gutted at Swedish in 2017, Antwi said.

“And this happens all the time,” Issaquah Swedish Charge Nurse Carol Lightle said. She had one patient who was poked 10 times.

Both Lightle and Antwi credit cuts, poor supplies, staffing and low employee retention to Providence Health and Services’ purchase of Swedish.

These patient safety concerns, unaffordable employee health care plans, “unfair” wages in light of the high salaries of the corporate executives at Providence and proposed union contracts that cut leave time, brought healthcare workers to Renton, the headquarters of Providence.

On Friday, July 26, at least 100 workers from all over Washington, and one union from Oregon cheered, honked, chanted and demanded “Patients before profits,” across the street from the Providence headquarters.

The shared problems Providence healthcare workers were experiencing “have become so extreme” according to a press release, that they have prompted the workers’ four different unions— Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local Eight, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199Northwest, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 21 and the Washington State Nurses Association— to create the “Providence United Coalition.”

“As it gets warm out here, brothers and sisters and friends, I’m sure it’s getting hot in there,” one rally leader said, pointing toward the office buildings.

In a statement regarding the rally, Providence said it had full confidence local leaders presented contracts with strong pay and benefits packages that align with its values of “exceptional work experience.”

Lightle said that she feels the pressure because of the high reputation the Swedish name has received from patients, who expect better care. She said she wishes the medical center would change names to Providence.

“As a healthcare worker, I didn’t become a nurse to provide the bare minimum,” Lightle said. “I want to provide and feel good about the care we’re giving.”

Franklin Perez, who’s been employed at Swedish for 28 years, said he’s saved 300 hours of vacation and 400 hours of sick leave. He said he’s at the rally because he doesn’t want to part with time he’s earned.

During the rally, faith leaders such as sister Helen Brennan, a 70-year member of Sisters of Providence, and Shiloh Baptist Church Pastor Gregory Christopher walked up to the office statue of Saint Emily, and with a group of health care workers placed 41 carnations at the monument’s feet.

The carnations represent the $41 million that the top 15 executives at Providence made last year. Brennan and Christopher then went in and presented the stories of healthcare workers to the head of Human Resources for corporate Providence.

They reported that they were told, “Thanks for your perspective.”

“It’s not our perspective, it’s our reality,” one healthcare worker at the rally said.

Speakers included local political leaders, like Renton Councilmember Ruth Perez, King County Executive Dow Constantine and King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.

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