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UCLA Medical Workers Strike Demanding Better Patient Care

Sara Newman |
May 22, 2013 | 4:33 p.m. PDT

News Editor


Protestor at UCLA medical strike, Sara Newman
Protestor at UCLA medical strike, Sara Newman
Less than two weeks after 110 members of UCLA’s neuroimaging research team moved to USC for the promise of larger facilities and more researchers, discontent seems to be brewing within UCLA’s medical program once again. 

Yesterday, for the second day in a row, close to 1,000 protestors from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) gathered in front of UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center to protest of current administrative policies that prevent the medical staff from best serving their patients.The protest occurred in conjunction with other union members at UC campuses throughout the state.

Despite the tremendous showing, "more than 80 percent of the workers who are part of this particular AFSCME unit showed up for work," explained Roxanne Moster, Director of the UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations.

At the forefront of the protestor requests, the UCLA medical crew want safer staff to patient ratios, better staffing and more security rights.

Monica Martinez, a nursing assistant who has been working at UCLA for the past 10 years, shared some insight on why she and her fellow protestors feel so passionately about the contractual changes that they are trying to negotiate. 

“We want to be able to provide the type of care we know we can give,” explains Martinez. “But we are being deprived of this opportunity because executives are prioritizing profits rather than patients.” 

The UCLA Health System responded with a statement, that "despite a strike by two unions, both the Westwood and Santa Monica campuses of the UCLA Health System are open and providing the safest and highest quality care to our patients. With careful planning and the professionalism and dedication of many union employees who put patients first and came to work today, the UCLA Health System is taking care of the health care needs of our community.

After over a year of contractual negotiations with the hospital’s administrative staff, concern for the quality of patient-care that they could provide under the current conditions motivated employees and community members alike to take a more public stance about their concerns.

In regard to the exodus of researchers to USC, Martinez commented that “by the way they prioritize executives and the way they deal with workers, doctors, and researchers, we can see what’s important to them.” This year UCLA’s management staff increased by 44% and their medical staff decreased by 2%. 

Protestors Outside of UCLA Medical Center, Sara Newman
Protestors Outside of UCLA Medical Center, Sara Newman

Another complaint among the protestors is that there has been a growing trend within the medical program to hire temporary per diem workers who work just eight hours a week without benefits or job stability. In addition to encouraging UCLA to cut rather than hire full-time workers, the system “leads to lower level of patient care as well,” according to Martinez. Per diem workers spend fewer hours with the patients so they become less involved in their individual cases,which results in the hiring of exhausted, overworked staff.

Yet, because UCLA is at the forefront of cutting edge technology and has many world renowned doctors, the medical workers don’t want to leave. They simply want to be able to hire the staff that they need and give them the freedom to provide the best possible care. 

Despite her optimism about UCLA’s potential to offer “better than excellent medical care,” Martinez doubts that the medical administrators will listen. Yet, if they keep ignoring the determined voices of their workers, more people may be moving to USC and other hospitals that can enable them to provide the best care for their patients. 

Contact News Editor Sara Newman here and follow her on Twitter. 



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