Concern is growing about a potential nursing strike at three Southern California hospitals, including the largest hospital here in Riverside County.
Nurses from Riverside Community Hospital, and hospitals in Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks, authorized a strike Friday, if they decide it's necessary.
The nurses' union SEIU Local 121RN said the hospitals weren't prepared for the pandemic, and that they are working in unsafe conditions.
If they decide to strike, thousands of nurses could walk out for 10 days, sending rippling effects through the region.
Nurses at the three Coachella Valley hospitals are not involved, but officials are worried if the staff at the Riverside facility walked out, patients under critical care would be transferred elsewhere, potentially even to the Coachella Valley.
"That would have a massive, massive impact impact on our system. ... If that facility closed, there would be a huge, detrimental impact on the public –I'm afraid sir we would lose lives," said Bruce Barton, director of the county's emergency management department. "We will have to send patients to all the other hospitals that are already overwhelmed. We'll have to send them across the border to San Bernardino County to their hospitals that are already close to capacity."
Linda Evans, mayor of La Quinta, said she's working on drafting a letter to Gov. Newsom asking for an executive order to prevent health care strikes during a pandemic.
"Any impact on shutting down ... services at a major institution like (Riverside Community Hospital) is going to just tidal wave the rest of us," Evans said. "If we have approximately 2,000 nurses that walk off the job and abandon patients, for whatever reason, it's unconscionable during this type of surge and strike and we need to put a little pressure to allow those not to occur during a time of crisis."
The county said contingency plans are being made. A spokesman for Desert Regional and JFK Memorial hospitals said in case of a closure or overflow patients, they would work with the county on that.
A spokeswoman for Eisenhower Health said the are prepared for a surge.