Seven registered nurse positions will be eliminated at Long Beach Memorial as part of operational changes affecting about 80 staff members overall in order to streamline similar departments for the upcoming fiscal year, hospital and union officials announced yesterday.
The affected registered nurse positions are in the Blood Donor Center, Employee Health Services and Research departments, according to California Nurses Association union representative Brandy Welch. The positions will be eliminated effective June 30.
Of the four operating RNs at the Blood Donor Center, two of the employees will be laid off, according to Welch, who said the union is concerned about patient safety issues with having a reduction in nurses, as well as the lack of public outreach of the center to the public.
“A lot of our neighbors and community does not even know there's a Blood Donor Center there so they have not been promoting this particular program that is actually beneficial to the community, to have a supply of blood and to have the ability to go in and give blood,” Welch told the Post.
Long Beach Memorial, which is a trauma center, regularly gets people coming in and donating blood for certain traumatic incidents, Welch said, so the planned cut in staff and hours of the donor center will make it more difficult for the community to give blood.
Two registered nurses in the research department will also get laid off, Welch said, threatening the advancement of medical care through a lot of groundwork done by research nurses.
The same will happen to two other nurses in Employee Health Services.
Welch said another clinical research RN’s position was terminated, but Long Beach Memorial was able to find “an acceptable position” that she is already in. This position is per diem, or part-time.
The hospital was able to find a different position for another nurse but Welch said the other five were “deemed not having enough experience to fit anywhere.”
“With this restructuring that they state they’re doing they’re currently promoting what they call a fiscal turnaround and I don't see how fiscally it can be turned around when you're continuing to layoff,” Welch said. “It is a very big concern to our nurses.”
In addition to the nurses, Welch said the hospital will also lay off auxiliary positions which directly assist registered nurses, which she said directly affects patient care.
Welch believes the hospital can go another route in order to save jobs in the future and mentioned that the union will discuss with them about retraining these nurses, especially the ones they don’t have positions for.
“Many of these nurses are in their 40s, 50s and 60s,” Welch noted. “They should be provided the opportunity to retrain into a position that is something they can do rather than just telling them, ‘Sorry I don't have a position for you’.”
Richele Steele, spokeswoman for Long Beach Memorial, told the Post in an email that quality patient care and safety is the hospital’s number one priority and any changes made follow a very thorough evaluation and thoughtful consideration to staff and patients and does not impact patient care in any way.
“Today [Thursday] we announced to the staff that as part of our continuous improvement, we are making minor operational changes for the upcoming fiscal year,” Steele said. “The changes encompass streamlining like departments across our health system. There are some departments that are going to be outsourced. For the departments that will be outsourced, our human resource department is working with the new vendors to offer the employees the opportunity to be employed by these new vendors. We anticipate that the vast majority of the employees will still work with us, they will just work for the vendor instead of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Inc.”
Steele said Friday evening that about 100 individuals across the organization were informed this week that their positions have been impacted by "operational changes and outsourcing" and that many of the employees will be provided either a different role within the organization or a job with the outsourcing vendor. Long Beach Memorial has asked the new vendors to hire these employees and "they have responded positively," she said.
"Until the hiring process is complete, we won’t truly know how many people are impacted, but anticipate it will be limited," Steele said.
The hospital also announced yesterday changes to its retirement plans, including a proposal to add a matching 401K plan to replace the Memorial Retirement Plan for employees hired after June 30 this year. RNs currently employed would be given the option to change to the new plan.
“The changes are meant to offer employees a fair market retirement plan,” Steele said.
Welch, who knew of the retirement plan changes during negotiations last May said the union made sure to the nurses’ contracts grandfathered the current plans which they felt is better than the proposed one.
The CNA says it will begin meeting to bargain over these proposed changes, though an exact date was not given.
The Long Beach Memorial healthcare system, which includes Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach and Community Hospital Long Beach, last laid off 130 employees in primarily “non-clinical areas” in January. The positions were across all levels and throughout all three hospitals.
Editor's note: this story was updated at 5:45PM with statements from Richele Steele regarding the 100 employees affected by operational changes and outsourcing.