Emily Rice Published

Union Nurses Call “Code Blue” For Understaffing At Cabell Huntington Hospital

Nurse's cap and stethoscopeSocjosensPG/Getty Images

Nurse and Nurse Practitioners at Cabell Huntington Hospital (CHH) are asking for the community’s support for dignity, respect and fairness for all employees at the facility.

Joyce Gibson is the union representative who represents 1,000 registered nurses at Cabell Huntington Hospital. She is the treasurer and secretary of the 1199 chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

SEIU announced Friday that they would hold a press conference calling for a “CODE BLUE” level of concern over unsafe staffing levels and the concern of retention. The chapter claims there are currently more than 200 Registered Nurse vacancies at CHH.

Gibson said the chapter has provided staffing ratio proposals to CHH that continually get rejected.

“They have out-of-state travel nurses working at the hospital versus rather than invest in the current nurses who work there,” Gibson said.

Aside from staffing shortages and mandatory overtime, the Registered Nurses at CHH might struggle to afford their own health insurance.

“The turnover rate is, you know, astronomical right now, and they are severely bleeding nurses on an astronomical rate,” Gibson said. “Part of that is mostly due to they have increased their health care premiums at the hospital for the nurses. Some of the nurses can’t even afford the health care premiums that they’re proposing right now.”

SEIU will continue negotiations with CHH on December 14 and 15.

“As of right now, we go back to negotiations next week on the 14th and 15th. We’re going to continue to bargain in good faith and hope that the employer recognizes the major issues that the nurses have,” Gibson said.

However, Gibson said she does not have hope for the success of these negotiations, citing the repeated rejections of previous proposals to the hospital.

“This contract will expire on January 15 and at some point, these nurses will be taking a strike vote in terms of whether or not to strike at this hospital over these issues,” Gibson said.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.