Thousand of California healthcare workers plan strike over staff, budget cuts

Thousand of US healthcare workers in the western State of California have planned a strike to protest major staff and budget cuts in a move that is expected to back up emergency rooms and delay elective surgeries.

An estimated 13,000 healthcare employees in five University of California (UC) medical centers, including vocational nurses, respiratory therapists and radiology technologists, plan to participate in the strike effort later on Tuesday in a bid to draw attention to “chronic understaffing and reckless cost-cutting” measures.

Additionally, some of the public hospital system's nearly 3,400 pharmacists, psychologists, social workers, lab scientists and occupational therapists have also vowed to join the walk-out at the five medical facilities in cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Davis and Irvine on Tuesday as a one-day sympathy strike.

According to Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the protesting employees have resorted to the walkout because they been working without a contract since September.

He added, however, that they are prepared to return to work in the event of an “area-wide emergency.”

UC’s Human Resources Vice President Dwaine Duckett warned, however, the strike would harm patient care and the level of services provided to patients.

He added that the strike had forced the postponement of hundreds of surgeries, including five pediatric heart surgeries and specialized procedures such as chemotherapy infusions for children with cancer.

Meanwhile, California's labor board has urged a state judge to intervene and order the health workers back to work.

Further on Monday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown found that nearly 100 burn center respiratory therapists and poison-control pharmacists were considered essential workers, barring them from joining the walkout.

Brown, however, refused to prevent the other healthcare employees from joining their labor move.