Police investigate death of patient in Oakland

September 25, 2011 7:58:10 PM PDT
The labor dispute at several Bay Area hospitals is heating up after a patient died at Alta Bates Medical Center in Oakland at the hands of a replacement nurse.

The nurse was hired to fill in for one that was striking as part of a benefits and labor dispute.

The death of the patient on Saturday has intensified calls by union nurses at Alta Bates Summit Hospital to let them get back to work. A pair of nurses who work in the unit where the patient died said his loss was one that didn't have to happen.

Nurses Luisa Bissett and Alicia Torres say they serve patients in the oncology unit at Alta Bates Summit Hospital. Both say they were stunned when they heard that a patient passed away in what would usually be their unit on Saturday morning while they were locked out.

"I am truly shocked by this," said Bissett. "Truly shocked. This should have never occurred."

"It got to this level where a patient lost their life, and it could have been prevented," Torres said.

Bissett and Torres are members of the California Nurses Association, the union that has been locked out of Sutter Health Hospitals in the East Bay following a one-day walk out this past Thursday.

Torres said she showed up for work on Friday, but was turned away. The nurses union is putting the death of the patient squarely on the shoulders of Sutter Health Care Systems.

"This is one more example that Sutter puts their profits before their patients," said nurse Leslie Silket. "If they cared about their patients, we wouldn't be standing here in the rain. We would be inside where we belong."

According to Oakland police, the patient -- whose name has not been released -- passed away when a relief nurse allegedly gave the patient a non-prescribed dosage of medication that turned out to be lethal.

The nurse has not been arrested, but the Major Crimes Unit of the Oakland Police Department is heading up the investigation.

"To have something like this happen is a huge, huge shock to our system," said Dr. Steve O'Brien. "So of course, after this incident, she is no longer providing medical care at this facility."

O'Brien, who is the Vice President of Medical Affairs at the hospital, says he wishes the union nurses didn't walk out in the first place, but Sutter Health is still confident about the qualifications of the replacement nurses they've hired because of the five-day lock out of union nurses.

Nurses will be holding a vigil outside of the hospital at 7 p.m. on Sunday.


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