LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — More than 5,000 nurses began two days of strikes Thursday at three L.A.-area hospitals and five in Northern California, calling for higher staffing levels and safer conditions for patients.

The nurses “are calling on hospitals to stop endangering patients by implementing safe staffing levels and taking steps to retain experienced RNs. They are also demanding policies that give RNs a stronger voice in patient care delivery,” according to the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

“Management demands for cuts in health coverage for RNs and their families are also a major focus for nurses … especially RNs who work for the Sutter Health chain,” said the union statement.

In Los Angeles County, a two-day strike was scheduled Thursday and Friday at Kaiser Permanente’s Los Angeles Medical Center on Sunset Boulevard and for one day on Friday at Providence’s Torrance hospital and Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

About 500 people were picketing Thursday outside Los Angeles Medical Center, a spokesperson for the nurses said.

Kaiser officials said the walkout is an organizing tactic by the California Nurses Association, which does not represent nurses at Los Angeles Medical Center but is one of three unions vying to.

“It is unfortunate that one of the organizing tactics chosen by this union is to call on nurses to walk away from their patients,” according to Kaiser. “We believe it is entirely inappropriate to attempt to disrupt patient care or service as part of a union-organizing effort.”

Kaiser officials say the hospital has plans in place to ensure adequate levels of staffing to meet the needs of patients, should some nurses opt to walk off the job or refuse to cross the picket line.

Nurses will also be on strike Thursday at five Sutter corporation hospitals in Northern California — in Auburn, Burlingame, Roseville, Santa Rosa and Tracy.

Union officials had announced that picketing would take place at Kaiser at 4867 Sunset Blvd. starting at 7 a.m. Thursday, and a rally would be held there at noon and Friday. On Friday, picketing will start at 8 a.m. at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance at 4101 Torrance Blvd. and at Providence Saint John’s Health Center at 2121 Santa Monica Blvd.

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