Two months ago, nurses and other employees picketed a Los Angeles County health center in Canoga Park to demand the cleanup of unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
The picketers turned party-goers as they squeezed into the clinic's tiny kitchen Thursday to munch on pizza in celebration of their cleaner, safer surroundings.
"This is our celebration day," said Marlene Naumann, a nurse at the clinic.
Between bites, the nurses talked about how life at the clinic had improved since their picketing. The nurses had complained about a cockroach infestation, a leaky roof, broken toilets, falling ceiling tiles and an unresponsive janitorial service. They also complained that the small clinic was overwhelmed with thousands of patient files that needed to be stored elsewhere.
All the problems have been fixed except the ceiling tiles, which will be replaced soon, said Michael Pirkkala, a business agent for the Service Employees International Union, which organized the effort and bought the pizzas.
Pirkkala applauded the nurses for staging their lunchtime pickets, saying, "These are the most courageous nurses in Los Angeles County."
County health officials said they had been trying to improve conditions at the aging clinic before the picketing.
Workers replaced the clinic's roof last month. In the past, rain would pour into the X-ray room, creating an electrical shock hazard and leaving up to three inches of water on the floor. The clinic is also a little roomier since the county placed a large steel storage container for records and supplies outside.
An exterminator regularly visits the clinic, and problems with the janitorial service have been worked out, nurses said.
"It's just been a real improvement," said Maxine Falls, a nursing supervisor. "I think we really accomplished what we started out to do."
Health administrators said the center has lingered on the priority list of those needing replacement for many years, but there is no construction money.
Nurses said that would be their next goal--a new clinic.
"We still have people wall-to-wall," said Carol Schuessler, a nurse practitioner.