Local man's life-saving kidney transplant canceled because of strike

Transplant scheduled for same day as strike

SAN DIEGO - A local man contacted 10News outraged after he says his life-saving kidney transplant is now canceled because of a one-day nurses' strike at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest.

Homer Rivera has been on a waiting list for seven years and says no one can tell him when he will get another chance.

The husband and father of three has been on dialysis for the past year.

"The machine costs about as much as a car," Rivera said.

He uses the machine nine hours a night to aid his failing kidney but expected to be finished after Nov. 20, which is when he was scheduled to get a new kidney.

Rivera tracked down the donor on his own using Facebook. The woman lives in Tennessee and is not covered by Rivera's insurance because she is out of state. So, he raised the money himself.

The donor was due in town in a few days. The hotel room and plane tickets were booked and paid for.

Everything was in line until Rivera got a call from UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest.

"They informed me that they would be canceling my surgery due to the nurses' strike that was going to happen on Nov. 20," Rivera said.

Unionized patient care workers with UCSD decided to strike for fair wages for one day – on the day Rivera was scheduled for a transplant.

"I was infuriated," he said. "I was upset. All this planning has gone into this, and all of a sudden my day gets canceled."

Rivera says that all the surgeries are booked until next year. A surgery date has not been scheduled.

For now, he has no idea when he will get the kidney he needs to live.

"It's going to be ... It's already is a nightmare," he said.

The union sent 10News the following statement:

"For over 18 months, UC Patient Care Workers (represented by AFSCME 3299) have been working to change the reckless and unsafe staffing practices at UC Hospitals that are endangering patients every day. This is a growing problem that has already cost UC millions of dollars in government fines and court ordered whistleblower settlements. It is also contributing to longer wait times, overbooked operating rooms, unsanitary facilities, preventable hospital infections and numerous other problems.

UC's has responded to these concerns by trying to silence frontline care workers who speak out with illegal threats, coercion and outright intimidation. On November 20th, AFSCME 3299 members will conduct a one day Unfair Labor Practice strike to demand an end to UC's serial law breaking.

In doing so, we have exempted dozens of critical care workers from participation in the strike, and formed a Patient Protection Task Force—as was the case when Patient Care workers conducted their first ever strike in May—in order to address any emergency medical needs (including emergency transplants) that may arise during the one day work stoppage.

With respect to transplants at UCSD, we do not schedule surgeries. However, the transplant teams that we represent are on call both the day before and the day after our strike. They stand ready to perform this procedure on either of those days, or any other day—including weekends--if the Surgeon can make himself available.

We deeply regret any inconvenience that UC's continuing refusal to take safety seriously is causing for our patients. That's why we will continue fighting for the staffing standards that our patients deserve, and for a workplace that is free of illegal threats against those who believe safety should be the UC Medical System's top priority."

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