Homer “James” Rivera spent seven years waiting for a kidney, but the hospital called him Wednesday to cancel his Nov. 20 transplant because of a possible hospital workers’ strike.
“I was just devastated that a week to transplant, they tell me they’re going to cancel,” Rivera, 37, of San Diego, told ABCNews.com. “I was infuriated. I was calling and emailing anybody I could. There’s got to be a way to get around this.”
The University of California San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest said it had to cancel the transplant because of an impending union strike. The one-day strike is the result of a disagreement over “reckless and unsafe staffing,” according to a statement the health care workers’ union AFSCME gave to ABC affiliate KGTV in San Diego.
Rivera, a father of three who has spent the past year on dialysis, said it’s difficult for him to find a match because his blood type is O-negative. His sister is the only match in his family, but she already donated a kidney to him 12 years ago. (Most people need more than one kidney transplant over their lifetimes.)
Once that kidney failed, he needed to look beyond his family for a match. After launching a Facebook campaign to find one, Rivera found a donor who lived in Tennessee. Because the donor lived out of state, his insurance wouldn’t cover her travel and lodging expenses during the surgery. So Rivera used gofundme.com and raised $5,000 in two days.
The hospital initially told Rivera it couldn’t schedule another surgery until 2014, but he learned today that the hospital rescheduled the surgery for the day after the strike, on Nov. 21. He’s now just waiting to make sure his donor can change her plans.
“It’s looking more positive for me,” he said, adding that he’s happy the hospital was able to help him.
It’s possible the one-day strike won’t happen at all, said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses’ Association, which has agreed to strike with AFSCME if there’s no resolution by Nov. 20. He said the unions try to give hospitals as much notice as possible so that they can prepare for the work stoppage.
“Obviously, the nurses’ strike is not first priority. It’s last resort,” Idelson told ABCNews.com.
If it does occur, a team of nurses will be available for emergencies, he said.
The hospital is now working to reschedule “hundreds” of surgeries before the strike, Jacqueline Carr, a spokeswoman for the UC San Diego Medical Center, told ABCNews.com. During a two-day strike in May, 120 surgeries and 350 radiological procedures had to be rescheduled, she said.
“These surgeries included brain cancer surgeries, organ transplants and reconstructive spine surgeries for both local and out-of-state patients,” Carr said. “The ideal situation would be that employees come to work and that the unions continue to negotiate at the bargaining table.”