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USC University Hospital nurses and staff picket amid contract negotiations

February 15, 2011 |  2:12 pm

Nurses About a 100 USC University Hospital nurses and medical staff picketed outside the hospital entrance Tuesday to demand improved staffing, a protest that came amid contract negotiations between administrators and two powerful unions.

Evelyn Koch, a registered nurse who said she has worked at USC-affiliated hospitals for more than 25 years, used a megaphone to rouse the lunchtime crowd on San Pablo Street, east of downtown Los Angeles.

"Nurses need to be sure our contract ensures our ability to deliver safe patient care," Koch shouted.

Many joined the picket line wearing red or blue scrubs and toting signs with messages such as: "Fight on for safe patient care" and "Don't short-staff life support." The protest lasted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., organizers said.

Representatives from the workers’ unions said their contract negotiations had stalled due to hospital administrators’ determination to reduce staff and worker input concerning staffing levels. The two unions -- the California Nurses Assn. and the National Union of Healthcare Workers -- represent more than 1,350 hospital staff, union officials said.

"We are working hard to reach an agreement as soon as possible with both CNA and NUHW, with an eye on supporting our employees and the goal of becoming the premier academic medical center in Los Angeles," hospital officials said in a Tuesday statement. "We are optimistic that negotiations will continue in good faith, and we look forward to reaching agreements that everyone can be proud of."

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: As his step-father holds the drum, five-year-old Jude Narvias pounds out a beat for marching hospital staff who held a protest at USC University Hospital Tuesday over staffing cuts they say put patients at risk. Credit: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times

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