On Wednesday afternoon in front of Mercy Redding, people honked their horns in support of union members who wore purple and held up signs that read, “Let’s Get Healthy California.”

As their union began contract negotiations with Catholic Healthcare West last week, employees from Mercy Medical Center lent their voices to the “Let’s Get Healthy California” movement at a roadside gathering in Redding.

Requesting CHW to support efforts to reduce chronic illness through increased training and  public education campaigns, five employees from Mercy Mt. Shasta stood with staff from Mercy Medical Center, Redding and St. Elizabeth Community Hospital to show their solidarity.

“We at Mercy Mt. Shasta want to preserve what we’ve already fought for... our wage, health benefits and pension, but also to try and help create a healthier California... we know cuts in healthcare will change things,” said Debbie Webb, who works in Mercy Mt. Shasta’s surgery department.

Though Webb stood with other SEIU-UHW union members to make a stand, she said the staff is content at Mercy Mt. Shasta.

“We have excellent managers, an excellent president and great facility here,” Webb said. “We couldn’t ask for better.”

On Wednesday afternoon in front of Mercy Redding, people honked their horns in support of union members who wore purple and held up signs that read, “Let’s Get Healthy California.”

Ready to speak to anyone who was interested, Mercy Redding employees Lorena Alvarez, Gavin Smith and Ed Nickerson explained today’s most pressing healthcare challenges and the SEIU-UHW stance.

“We’re taking a bold new approach this year,” said  phlebotomist Alvarez, who has worked at Mercy Redding for 10 years. “We are focused on improving health in California – for healthcare workers and our patients. We will make innovative bargaining proposals to lower healthcare costs and provide incentives for good health.”

Alvarez noted that 27 percent of the population of those in Siskiyou, Shasta and Tehama counties (where the CHW cluster hospitals are located) depend on Medicare and Medi-Cal.

“Healthcare cuts are going to impact them, and healthcare workers, too.”

Smith, who works in Mercy Redding’s Emergency department, said he’s on the front lines and sees many of the breakdowns in the healthcare system.

“Every day I see patients who come into the emergency room with conditions that could have been prevented if they had reliable access to quality healthcare,” Smith said.

Respiratory therapist Nickerson said he’s worried for patients that will be deeply affected by Medicare cuts that will affect thousands of north state residents in the baby boomer generation.

“We are committed to improving healthcare in California, and that’s why I believe in the ‘Lets Get Healthy California’ pledge,” Nickerson said. “We’re asking CHW to join us and be the first in a long line of partners to sign the pledge.”

Three main points of the pledge include:
• Working with the Governor to reduce chronic diseases by 50 percent, including obesity, diabetes, asthma, depression, hypertension and heart disease. By working with Governor Brown, SEIU-UHW hopes to make it the policy of the state to reduce these six conditions by 50 percent in 10 years. This would reduce the costs of healthcare by more than $300 billion, SEIU-UHW claims.
• Recruiting and training 250,000 more healthcare workers to meet the evolving needs of our state. The pledge states the union will work to create a $250 million annual training and education program funded by all facts of the industry to ensure demands for care will be met while simultaneously addressing high joblessness in the state.
•?Deploying 10,000 healthcare workers in a massive statewide public education and action campaign to expand coordinated care and emphasize health education so Californians can have longer, more productive lives with fewer incidences of chronic disease and other illnesses.

“As California’s largest private provider of health care services, Catholic Healthcare West welcomes any serious idea to improve the health and wellness of Californians,” said Herb Vallier, CHW’s executive vice president of human resources. “We look forward to hearing more about the Service Employee International Union’s ‘Let’s Get Healthy California’ effort. We are also looking forward to open and substantive negotiations with the SEIU. We will work with the SEIU to reach a contract that sustains our mission, is affordable for our organization and employees, and reaffirms CHW’s aspiration to remain an employer of choice in health care.”