Registered nurses at 15 HCA-affiliated hospitals in five states, including Florida, have voted to authorize nurse negotiators to call a strike if the issues RNs have been raising in ongoing contract negotiations remain unresolved, the National Nurses Organizing Committee announced.
“With this strike authorization vote, nurses are making it absolutely clear that we are ready to strike to ensure optimal care for our patients,” said Jack Hood, a registered nurse at Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville, in a news release.
“From Florida to Nevada, we are united in our commitment to negotiating a contract that provides solutions to the issues we are raising including turnover, recruitment and retention, and consistent compliance with staffing grids.”
The registered nurses are in ongoing contract negotiations, with contracts expiring May 31, 2018 at the hospitals in Florida, Kansas and Missouri, and June 30, 2018 at the facilities in Texas and Nevada.
Rosanne O'Malley, chief nurse representative at the Medical Center of Trinity in Pasco County, said the Hospital Corporation of America affiliates need to demonstrate a good faith effort to re-negotiate.
"Striking is an extreme measure that nobody wants to take,” O’Malley said. “We don't want any work stoppage - we don't want our communities to be without nurses on the job - but we have a contract to settle."
The Medical Center of Trinity released this statement about the potential strike:
"At the Medical Center of Trinity, we are very proud of our caregivers and the culture of compassion we have developed at our hospital and our satellite campuses, which is based on open communication and a shared commitment to providing the highest quality of patient care. It is not uncommon for tactics like this to be used when a union and an employer are in contract negotiations, as we are with this nursing union. We have bargaining dates scheduled later this month and we look forward to the union's response to the proposal we provided to them back in July.
We want to assure our community that neither this – nor any other action – will ever come between us and our commitment to the high-quality care and services we offer our patients and this community on a daily basis. In the unfortunate event that the union should decide to strike, we will utilize all available resources to ensure we have the staff to continue providing for our patient’s needs. "
National Nurses Organizing Committee officials say more than 50 percent of nurses at many of these facilities are leaving within three years.
O’Malley said nurses are especially concerned about "safe staffing" at HCA hospitals in Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, as well as other parts of Florida.
“Safe staffing means that a nurse will have only the number of patients that is safe for her to take care of for a 12-hour period, that she has time to meet their needs, see that all the goals for the nursing care is met, that she is not hurried or rushed through, that she’s not stretched to the limit, and still has time to have a lunch and a break,” O’Malley said.
O'Malley said if the hospitals don't comply, they'll strike.
Union officials say no strike date has been set at this time but “should the bargaining team decide to move forward with a strike, nurses will provide hospital management 10 days advance notice so that facilities can make appropriate preparations, including postponing elective procedures and making necessary patient transfers.”