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California hospital bans hiring of Filipino nurses

First Posted 09:26:00 08/22/2010

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CALIFORNIA, United States?I love Filipino nurses.

Next to cheap garments at Wal-Mart and female impersonators, I?d have to put them on the top of the list as the Philippines? leading export.

If the country had a team mascot, it would have to be the ?Fighting Nurses.? (Notre Dame has the ?Fighting Irish,? why not?)

So, of course, I?m alarmed by the news that a de facto ban against hiring Filipino nurses at the St. Luke?s Campus of Sutter Health?s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) appears to be policy in San Francisco.

No Filipinos, as blatant as that. Just like the old sign that the Filipino National Historical Society displays, the one from the 1920s that reads, ?Positively No Filipinos Allowed.?

You can take that sign and stick it on the door at St. Luke?s, right now, says the California Nurses Association, the nurses union.

And now it wants to do something about it.

The union wants the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to investigate the hospital. But that?s just the opening shot. The union intends to file a class action grievance against Sutter and CPMC.

The union provided compelling evidence which included signed statements by former managers and current job stats to back up the claim that Filipinos are being unfairly discriminated at St. Luke?s.

From numbers provided by CPMC, the numbers don?t lie.

Before the take-over of the hospital in 2007 the Filipino RNs at St. Luke?s were 66 percent of the nursing population.

Between 2007 and 2008, just 48 percent of new hires were Filipino.

From February 2008, when the nurses union and the community organized to stop the closure of St. Luke?s, to the present, the percentage of new RN hires who were Filipino dropped dramatically to just 10 percent.

They didn?t all just give up their RN credentials and take jobs as Wal-Mart greeters.

Nato Green, the labor representative who works at St. Luke?s said it?s no coincidence. ?I believe this reflects Sutter?s decision to use race to divide workers and stop collective bargaining activity,? Green told me. ?Going from 66 percent to 10 percent (of new hires) is a fairly remarkable coincidence.?

It all comes after the union forced Sutter to keep St. Luke?s open. The nurses union expected some push back, but not this.

?CPMC and Sutter have chosen to retaliate by carrying out a punitive, illegal, and immoral campaign of discrimination,? said Zenei Cortz, the California Nurses Association president. ?There is no excuse for racial or ethnic discrimination. A hospital should be a center of therapeutic healing for patients, not a model for bigotry.?

The union also produced affidavits signed under penalty of perjury. Ronald Rivera, a former nurse manager, who worked there from April 2006 to April 2010 when he resigned on good terms, provided his testimony.

?One day I spoke with Diana Karner (VP of nursing) on the phone about hiring new RNs,? he attested. ?Diana said to me that we probably should not hire any more foreign graduate nurses. She explained that patients complain because ?it is hard to understand them and be understood by them.??

Another signed affidavit came from Ronald Villanueva, who actually was sitting in and overheard the conversation between Karner and Rivera. ?I was shocked and I wondered if she knew I was a foreign graduate nurse,? he wrote.

A third declaration came from Chris Hanks, who was the Director of Critical Care from 2008 to 2009 and reported directly to Karner. Hanks was alarmed when told point blank ?you are not to hire any Filipino nurses.? Hanks challenged Karner at their weekly meetings, until Karner told him, ?The Filipinos are always related, or know each other, and that?s not good. You?re not to hire them.?

Karner the VP of nursing didn?t return my telephone call.

Kevin McCormack, of CPMC?s media relations said she was out of the office and unavailable. What did he think of a ban on hiring Filipino nurses? ?That would be illegal,? he said. ?You can?t ban hiring specific groups.?

He called it ?ridiculous? and implied it was a stunt by CNA to fan the ongoing dispute with CPMC.

But the numbers don?t lie.

The Filipino nursing staff at St. Luke?s is shrinking and it isn?t by accident.

If you?re a Filipino nurse wanting to get to San Francisco, the climate is getting ugly.

Copyright, 18 August 2010. E-mail:emil@amok.com; follow at www.twitter.com/emilamok


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