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NUHW members take fight to Providence

NUHW members throughout Northern California are joining together to take on Providence, a massive hospital corporation that has been cutting care to communities throughout the region.

While Providence this month closed its outpatient labs in Sonoma, Napa, and Humboldt counties, workers at Petaluma Valley Hospital have led the call to make the company reopen the hospital’s birthing center that it closed last year.

During a March 20 hearing by the Healthy Petaluma Board of Directors, several registered nurses, whose union recently affiliated with NUHW, called on the directors to compel Providence to reopen the center.

Providence closed the only maternity ward between Marin County and Santa Rosa last year despite agreeing that it would keep it open at least through 2025 as a condition of its recent purchase of Petaluma Valley Hospital from the public hospital board.

“Providence promised they wanted to be here for the community and they wanted to invest. Three years later we don’t have an OB unit,” Jim Goerlich, an RN at Petaluma Valley Hospital, told board members.

Joanna Morton, a registered nurse at the hospital, said that the birthing center was a critical public service, noting many instances when women gave birth within just three hours of their contractions starting.

“It’s a safety issue and our families that live in this area deserve to have basic safety and basic services”, Morton said.

Providence has proposed increasing community health services as an alternative to reopening the birthing center, but caregivers have maintained that the company has enough money to do both.

Board member Cheryl Negrin recalled her pregnant daughter having to be taken to Providence’s Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital when she had a healthcare emergency.

“She lost a lot of blood that she wouldn’t have (if we had the birthing center here),” Negrin said. “It’s really hard when you want to respect a company that says and insists they’re going to take care of you, but you see behind the lies that it’s not true.”

The board, which allowed Providence to close the birthing center last May, will ultimately decide whether to insist on its reopening. A decision is expected in the next month.

Northern California Providence units meet to plan combined bargaining 

On March 16, member leaders at Providence hospitals across Northern California met in Santa Rosa to continue preparations in their fight for a single contract in the region that can raise standards at every Providence facility.

As NUHW members are preparing for a contract battle, more Providence workers are continuing to join the union.

Just a few months after nearly 600 workers at Providence San Pedro voted to join NUHW, five warehouse workers this month also became NUHW members. They join their colleagues at Providence Cedars Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, who recently won a transformative contract that made them among the highest paid workers in the Providence system.

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