May 20, 2016 (San Diego) There are allegations that LABCORP, one of our largest clinical labs in San Diego, is putting patient safety at risk. They are also not listening to their employees, who have told them how to solve most of the issue. It comes down to one word: Staffing.
According to Latricia Upole, a former employee of the company, and a phlebotomist, “short staffing is one of the biggest issue at all the LABCORPs. A lot of the sites are very understaffed, which causes very long wait times.” These wait times can be as long as a few hours.
Upole also spoke of people missing other appointments becuase of these long wait times. “We see patients who are elderly, we see patients that are diabetics, some of them do not expect that when they come to our lab that they are going to have that long of a wait time.”
Moreover, a lot of the labs are so understaffed that they have a few people to see hundreds of patients. She mentioned that many a times in the first half an hour, 30 patients check in. “with 2 or 3 phlebotomists to help the, it is pretty much impossible.”
The amount of patents and the requirement to draw a certain number of patients, leads to avoidable mistakes. Things like not getting the date of birth, or the doctor reference number, and these put patient safety at risk. They also draw blood from babies. Some of the labs have a single person on staff, which means mom has to hold the child down. Babies will cry when you draw blood. This places the baby at risk, as well as the phlebotomist. They also have at times to draw from patient with mental issues, and that places everybody at risk.
Upole did emphasize that phlebotomists want to give the best patient care possible. Also that one of their roles is to calm patients before drawing blood. Most people are afraid of needles and they at times need to deal with people who pass out. What they are asking in the contract negotiations is “to be staffed to the proper amount.”
Other speakers included Michael D Jackson, a registered nurse at UCSD and a board member at National Nurses United. Jackson spoke of not just a contract with LABCORP, but a fair contract. He emphasized “the importance of not doing the assembly line type of work when you deal with human lives. We are not machine, and neither are the human lives the we deal with on a daily basis.”
These conditions create an unsafe situation for both patients and health care providers. He also emphasized that health care providers in the community depend on accurate lab results. To do this, they need to staff the facilities at proper numbers, to do the job safely.
Assembly Member Todd Gloria, who currently represents the district, also spoke. He said that “when health care professionals like Trish and like Michael speak out. I listen.” He pointed out that they are raising a red flag and that we all should listen.
He also pointed out that “health care is everything.” And that we deserve the best health care possible. It affects all of us.
Finally Richard Barrera, currently an organizer with the United Food Workers 135 and a member of the San Diego School Board spoke. He mentioned how young students who needed blood drawn for summer jobs they are applying, were turned away due to lack of staff. This is an example of the issues.
This is a contract negotiation, and understaffing cannot continue at these facilities. These negotiations started a year ago, when the first group of workers organized to sit across the table with management. The issue is understaffing and working conditions, The company still refuses to accept even the most basic of suggestions.
“They are not bargaining in good faith, and have refused to listen to the solutions that council member Todd Gloria mentioned, that are coming straight from the employees, about how to make sure patients are adequately cared for.” Barrera called on the community to demand that LABCORP stop the delay tactics and negotiate in good faith.