U Of C Med. Ctr. Prepares For Nurses’ Strike After Talks Break Down – CBS Chicago

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Talks broke down between the University of Chicago Medical Center and the union representing its nurses Wednesday night – setting the stage for a strike.

The National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United announced in a news release late Wednesday that the hospital was making final preparations for its first-ever nursing strike, which is expected to go ahead at 7 a.m. Friday.

“We’re disheartened that we had to get to this point,” University of Chicago Medical Center President Sharon O’Keefe said in a news release. “We worked long and hard negotiating with the help of a federal mediator and had hoped union leadership would meet us half way. We now have to focus our efforts on safely operating our hospitals and caring for the patients who depend on us.”

Ahead of the strike, the U of C Medical Center went on full bypass Wednesday night – meaning that ambulances a directed to take patients elsewhere.

The 618-bed academic hospital has also contracted with replacement workers who have come to Chicago from around the country, and who will remain normal operations, the hospital said. But because of concurrent strikes at hospitals in California, Arizona, and Florida, the U of C Medical Center has not been able to retain as many replacement workers as planned, the news release said.

Thus, in addition to the ambulance bypass plan, the hospital will be limiting virtually all transfers from community hospitals, temporarily closing some inpatient units, rescheduling some elective operations, and transferring patients to other facilities “on a case-by-case basis.”

Talisa Hardin of National Nurses United said Monday that U of C nurses have been without a contract since April. Their major concern is the average medical caregiver workload.

A spokeswoman said since January 2017, workers have filed 1,700 reports of unsafe conditions to management.

“The medical center refuses to adequately staff us, and it makes me very sad,” Hardin said earlier this week.

The medical center countered that nurses represented by the union are already the highest paid in Chicago and Illinois. The hospital also said nurse staffing levels at the U of C are actually the best of in the state and the city and accused the union of distorting them.

Meanwhile, administrators said Tuesday that they had already transferred about 10 to 15 patients – all children — to other hospitals in anticipation of a possible strike.

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