Tag Archives: St.Luke’s Hospital

Filipino nurse issue turning into leverage point in community demands for equal job opportunity and health care access at new California Pacific Medical Center project

Allegations of discriminatory anti-Filipino hiring practices at St.Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco have been festering at California Pacific Medical Center since last August.

We haven’t heard a lot from either the hospital or the nurses since then.

But now it appears CPMC has simply preferred a subtler approach.

Why not just try to persuade a key witness against them to change his story, maybe by even offering him a higher paying job?

That’s so Filipino!

Send over the CEO of the whole CPMC magilla to sweet talk the witness on Valentine’s Day no less.  Nothing like some Bigfoot-sweet-talk to persuade and intimidate a lowly nurse overcome by a momentary sense of outspokenness, and professional self-esteem.  

CPMC must think they’re in Manila.

But St.Luke’s nurse Ronald Villanueva, one of three key witnesses who have alleged discriminatory hiring at CPMC, says he’s not budging from his story.

That didn’t stop CPMC CEO, Dr. Warren Browner from stopping by Villanueva’s ICU work station after work this past February 14th.

The nurse recalled Dr. Browner’s plea.

“He asked if there was anything we can do to change my perception and if I was still interested in a management position,” said Villanueva.

Villanueva’s still not interested in a position, mainly because he remembers statements made by Diana Karner, the Chief Nursing Officer at St.Luke’s back in 2007. And she’d still be his superior.

On April 25, 2007,  Villanueva was to be interviewed for an open nurse supervisor position. Prior to that, he overheard Karner and then nurse manager, Ron Rivera, in conversation.

Villanueva has no memory loss here. He said Karner told Rivera bluntly, “Do not hire foreign graduate nurses.”

Ultimately, Villanueva did get that job. But since then, there’s been little advancement at CPMC as a foreign nurse.

In 2008, despite high praise on his performance from CPMC officials, including nursing heads Karner and her associate, Heather Sebanc the associate VP of nursing, Villanueva’s career path has been stymied.

In December 2008, Sebanc administered a job evaluation that kept him from a 5 percent raise and a 3 percent bonus, and then strongly discouraged him from applying for an ICU manager position.

“Sebanc told me…I strongly advise you not to apply for the position,” Villanueva said.

The hostility Villanueva received once again called to mind Karner’s original comments, and he has since decided to no longer apply for manager positions at CPMC.  He even requested to go back to ICU as staff nurse where he currently works.

All of Villanueva’s words are in a sworn affidavit declared to be true and correct under penalty of perjury under California law.

The nurses representatives and community members have asked CPMC officials to do the same, but they have declined.

CPMC spokesman Kevin McCormac confirmed that Dr. Browner did talk to Villanueva that day but said the meeting has been “misconstrued for other purposes.”

McCormac said Browner had heard Villanueva had received favorable employee performance marks and wanted to find out if Villanueva was interested in advancing at CPMC.

So has Villanueva’s good performance changed the perception by CPMC of Filipino and foreign nurses there?

“There is no perception about foreign nurses,” McCormac told me. “The perception is they have the skills, the perception and the background. We think they’re great.”

The California Nurses Union and the Filipino Community Center still aren’t sure about that, and have witness affidavits at the ready for potential legal action at CPMC. Ironically, one nursing official involved, Heather Sebanc, left CPMC last month. McCormac said it was unrelated to this issue.

In the meantime, the larger battle ground  may just be CPMC’s proposed new hospital at the old Jack Tar Hotel site. A hearing is upcoming before the health and planning commission, McCormac said.

The discriminatory hiring issue may simply be used as a key leverage point to push CPMC to assure equal access to job opportunities and healthcare services at the new facility.

California nurses call for investigation of alleged discriminatory hiring practices against Filipinos at SF’s St.Luke’s hospital

If you don’t think racism and discrimination still exists in our era of diversity, consider this:   A  de facto ban against hiring Filipino nurses at the St.Luke’s Campus of Sutter Health’s Calif. Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) appears to be policy in San Francisco.

No Filipinos, as blatant as that.

Just like the old sign that the Filipino National Historical Society displays, the one from the 1920s that reads, “Positively No Filipinos Allowed.”

You can take that sign and stick it on the door at St.Luke’s, right now, says the California Nurses Association, the nurses union.

And now it wants to do something about it.

At a press conference on Thursday, the union will call for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to investigate the hospital. The union will also announce its intention to file a class action grievance against Sutter and CPMC.

The union provided compelling evidence which included signed statements by former managers and current job stats, that  suggests Filipinos are being unfairly discriminated at the St. Luke’s campus.

From numbers provided by CPMC, the numbers are revealing. Before the take-over of the hospital in 2007 the Filipino RNs at St.Luke’s were 66 percent of the nursing population.

Between 2007 and 2008, just 48 percent of new hires were Filipino.

From Feb. 2008, when the nurses union and the community organized to stop the closure of St.Luke’s, to the present, the percentage of new RN hires who were Filipino dropped dramatically to just 10 percent.

They didn’t all just give up their RN credentials and take jobs as Wal-Mart greeters.

Nato Green, the labor representative who works at St.Luke’s said it’s no coincidence. “I believe this reflects Sutter’s decision to use race to divide workers and stop collective bargaining activity,” Green told me. “ Going from 66 percent to 10 percent (of new hires) is a fairly remarkable coincidence.”

It all comes after the union forced Sutter to keep St.Luke’s open. The nurses union expected some push back, but not this.

“CPMC and Sutter have chosen to retaliate by carrying out a punitive, illegal and immoral campaign of discrimination,” said Zenei Cortz, the California Nurses Association president.  “There is no excuse for racial or ethnic discrimination. A hospital should be a center of therapeutic healing for patients, not a model for bigotry.”

The union also produced affidavits signed under penalty of perjury.  Ronald Rivera, a former nurse manager, who worked there from April 2006 to April 2010 when he resigned on good terms, provided his testimony.

“One day I spoke with Diana Karner (VP of nursing) on the phone about hiring new RNs,” he attested.  “Diana said to me that we probably should not hire any more foreign graduate nurses. She explained that patients complain because “it is hard  to understand them and be understood by them.”

Another signed affidavit came from Ronald Villanueva, who actually was sitting in and overheard the conversation between Karner and Rivera. “I was shocked and I wondered if she knew I was a foreign graduate nurse,” he wrote.

A third declaration came from from Chris Hanks, who was the Director of Critical Care from 2008 to 2009 and reported directly to Karner. Hanks was alarmed when told point blank “you are not to hire any Filipino nurses.”  Hanks challenged Karner at their weekly meetings, until he was Karner told him, “The Filipinos are always related , or know each other, and that’s not good. You’re not to hire them.”

Karner the VP of nursing didn’t return my telephone call.

Kevin McCormack, of CPMC’s media relations said she was out of the office and unavailable. What did he think of a ban on hiring Filipino nurses? “That would be illegal,” he said. “You can’t ban hiring specific groups.”

He called it “ridiculous” and implied it was a stunt by C N A to fan the ongoing labor dispute with CPMC.

“We have a long history of hiring Filipino nurses on all our campuses, including St.Luke’s, and we are still hiring them,” McCormack read from CPMC’s official statement. “We have many RNs at our St. Luke’s campus who are Filipino and know how extraordinary they are. To say we are imposing quotas on them is outrageous.”

It is outrageous, but the numbers don’t lie.

The Filipino nursing staff at St.Luke’s is shrinking and it is such a precipitous drop that it can’t just be by accident or happenstance.