Respiratory therapists want union, too

For the second time this month, Carson-Tahoe Hospital administrators are facing a petition from employees seeking union representation.

Representatives from Operating Engineers Local Union Number 3 sent hospital administrators and the board of trustees Monday a request from respiratory therapists asking for a bargaining unit separate from the hospital's employee association.

Hospital nurses are also seeking a separate representation from Local 3 as well, saying they want to raise the quality of care for patients, lower nurse stress and to operate more efficiently and safely.

There are about 25 respiratory therapists at Carson-Tahoe, and union representative Pete Ford reported that 21 signed a petition to unionize.

A respiratory therapist who asked not to be identified said therapists are looking to be able to adjust their workload.

"It's an issue of staffing that we're concerned about," he said. "I hope it's not perceived as a big fight or argument, that we're dissatisfied with where we work. When people go to work they want to be able to reasonably do what's expected of them. We can't do that if we're carrying a work load and a half."

He said respiratory therapists are responsible for life support systems, asthma programs and pneumonia and emphysema cases among other duties and see between 10 and 15 patients three to five times a day.

The patient load is not bad, he said, unless the workload goes up. The hospital won't pay for a therapist to be placed on call, so the respiratory therapists have to cover, he said.

"We want to be able to adjust for the bad times, but there is no system to take care of the situation," he said.

Union spokesman Steve Moler said the union was told that respiratory therapists want some recognition.

"They feel they're not recognized for their skill level and education they have," Moler said. "They're feeling like management treats them like they're helpers. It's a fairness issue.

"They have many of the same issues the nurses have - too many patients, work overloads. They just don't feel their association can address their particular needs. They'll get better representation from a union versus an association, and they'll get a unit by itself which can accomplish more."

Hospital Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith said he doesn't see the recent employee attempts at unionization as a sign of dissatisfaction.

"We have a contract with the association," Smith said. "If the employees choose someone else, it's their choice. Until that changes, I can't make too many comments."

"We'll just have to let the dust settle and see what happens," Trustee Pete Livermore said.


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