Talks Break Down, University Of Chicago Medical Center Prepares For Nurses' Strike

Mike Krauser
September 19, 2019 - 7:47 am
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Talks broke down between the University of Chicago Medical Center and the union representing its nurses Wednesday night and they are planning to strike at 7 a.m. Friday morning.

The National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United announced late Wednesday that the hospital was making final preparations for its first-ever nursing strike.

“We’re disheartened that we had to get to this point,” University of Chicago Medical Center President Sharon O’Keefe said in a statement. “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.”

The nurses have been working without a contract since April. Their major issue is the average medical caregiver workload.

“This is about safety. This is about compassion. This is about taking care of our patients,” Talisa Hardin of National Nurses United said.

The University of Chicago Medical Center has closed some units and transferred some current patients, including children in the ICU, to other hospitals.

As of Wednesday night, the emergency room went on full bypass, meaning that ambulances are being directed to take patients elsewhere.

According to CBS 2, 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; 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.

In addition to the bypass, 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," the hospital said in a statement.

“We thought that patient care was the priority, and to us, it doesn’t really feel like that – moving out patients instead of working with us,” Hardin said. “I’m sure the patients aren’t happy about that either, and so hopefully, we can come to a compromise and stop this.”

When asked if she thought moving patients jeopardized patient care, Hardin said, “I do.”