Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital administrators have announced they will cut off health insurance benefits to striking nurses and their families as well as pay.
The hospitals announced the cuts on Friday to the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA), a union of more than 5,000 nurses representing the two hospitals, which plans to begin striking on April 25 after both sides failed to reach contract agreements.
The union has posted a petition on its website that has thus far garnered nearly 23,000 signatures. The petition will be presented to hospital officials prior to the strike, CRONA said in a statement.
"It is beyond cruel and insulting for the hospitals to cut off health care for the nurses who have given everything to the hospitals in these last two years and are simply asking to negotiate common-sense solutions for their patients and their profession — especially when the hospitals reported that their joint operating surplus increased by $676 million in 2021, in addition to a combined revenue of approximately $8.3 billion," the union said.
"Instead of trying to address why 93% of eligible nurses voted to go on strike, the hospitals responded with this cruel move that's clearly designed to punish nurses and break their resolve."
In a statement, Dale E. Beatty, chief nurse executive and vice president of patient care services for Stanford Health Care, and Jesus Cepero, senior vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer for Stanford Children's Health, confirmed the hospitals will cut the nurses' health care benefits and pay if they strike.
The hospitals are "well prepared to continue to provide safe, quality health care to the communities that rely on us," they said.
Nurses who strike will not be paid for any shifts they miss.
"In addition, employer-paid health benefits will cease on May 1 for nurses who go out on strike and remain out through the end of the month in which the strike begins," they said.
Stanford quoted from a "contingency manual" the union provided to nurses:
"If a strike lasts beyond the end of the month in which it begins and the hospitals discontinue medical coverage, you will have the option to pay for continued coverage."
The hospitals said that nurses who choose to strike may pay out of pocket to continue their health coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), a federal program that allows employees to temporarily extend their group health benefits.
Stanford said the move is a standard practice that "is not unique to our hospitals and applies to any of our employees on unpaid status, including those who leave the hospital to transition to another job.
"We remain hopeful that CRONA will return to the bargaining table to work with us to reach a new contract agreement and avert a strike. We support and value the extraordinary nurses of Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and have put a strong economic proposal on the table that, when a contract is ratified, ensures they will remain the highest paid nurses in the nation," the hospitals said.
CRONA's demands include providing mental health services, retaining existing medical benefits, increasing pay and implementing measures to address nurse burnout, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.