1,100 Nurses Walk Out For a Day

By Steve Jackson

Nurses at Deaconess and Valley hospitals are hitting the picket lines Wednesday for a one day walk out. The move comes after contract negotiations have reached a standstill. 

RN Teri Nicolson of Valley hospital says the walkout centers on staffing issues. She says they have started giving registered nurses on the floor patients, along with their charge duties. "They increased the patient load from four or five patients to six for the RN on the regular floor," says Nicolson. "Its kind of been a cut by attrition, they are housing a lot of supplemental staff that doesn’t have benefits to fill in, and they’re not using full time and benefitted positions," she says.

1,100 health care workers will hit the picket lines, while hospital administrators have called in temporary replacement workers for the one day strike. Registered nurses at Valley Hospital have been working without a contract for a year. Technical workers and hospital staff at both Deaconess and Valley have been working under an expired contract for months.

Nurses at Deaconess voted five years ago to disband their union. But the union has asked the nurses at Deaconess to support them by not taking extra shifts at Valley to shore up the staffing by replacement workers. Both hospitals are owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems.

Hospital spokesperson Sasha Weiler told us Tuesday afternoon the hospitals do not expect any interruption to patient care. Weiler is the director of communications for Deaconess and Valley Hospitals. She says they have a full contingency plan for the one day strike, in which contracted workers who are licensed and credentialed in Washington will fill in. She says some replacement nurses may be local.
 
Regarding complaints about staffing levels, Weiler says the hospitals staff appropriately based on patient-need and that assessment done nationally show them in line with national standards.
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