During the pandemic, nurses have been given a lot of praise for the vital, frontline work they do, but some nurses working for San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would like to be paid the overtime they have put in.
In a lawsuit against the city, several nurses claim that due to chronic understaffing, the public health department is forcing them to work overtime to cover the gap. They are demanding thousands of hours in back pay.
Many public health facilities are feeling the strain during the pandemic, said Jennifer Esten, a registered nurse and vice president of organizing for SEIU Local 1021, which assisted the plaintiffs with their legal action.
“Our med-surge beds are running at 112% capacity over the last three months,” she said. “So, we know that we have more patients coming in than we physically have beds for.”
The use of freelance nursing staff is making matters worse, Esten said.
“Why are we relying on 40% of our staffing that is unreliable and unpredictable and can disappear at any moment?” she asked. “Because of this, our permanent nurses end up having a lot of hours that they also work extra.”
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital spokesman Brent Andrew told Mission Local that the city “does not believe S.F. General is understaffed and the nurses’ pay is consistent with the union contract.”
Esten pointed to an agreement reached in July with the public health department that she expects to improve the overtime pay situation, adding that she hopes the lawsuit will help nurses recover overtime back pay and force the city to address understaffing at D.P.H. facilities.
A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.