By Sarah Adamo
On Sept. 20, over 6,500 nurses from California, Arizona, Florida and Illinois led a strike against their hospitals, urging for better working conditions and higher salaries, according to The Associated Press.
Most of the strikers are employed at Tenet Healthcare, a multinational health-services company that oversees 65 hospitals and 500 other related facilities, according to Business Insider.
The New York Times reported that the event was precipitated by failed contract negotiations between National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the country, and nationwide hospitals such as the University of Chicago Medical Center. Many nurses are concerned about the indifference that their pleas for better staffing have met.
One registered nurse from Arizona, Dominique Hamilton, told Business Insider that “‘the strike is first and foremost about patient care and patient advocacy.’”
Nurses from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson, Arizona, argued that “‘patients are more likely to get optimal care when the hospital prioritizes investing in the nursing staff,’” according to U.S. News.
“‘We’re here to advocate for our patients,’” said Yajaira Roman, an intensive care unit nurse in Hialeah, Fla., according to The New York Times. “‘(Research shows that) every patient over four assigned to one nurse in a medical surgical unit, there’s an increase in mortality of 7 percent per patient.’”
Business Insider reported that a survey of Illinois nurses from this year showed that only 18 percent of them believe that their hospital’s nurse-to-patient ratios are safe.
The alleged staff deficiency has been forcing nurses to work many hours, impairing their abilities to fully perform their jobs. Denise Summers, a registered nurse, told CNN that “‘nurses are not able to take lunch.’” She added that they are often prohibited from taking breaks and penalized for falling ill themselves.
Hospitals, in turn, have raised their own objections to the occurrences. The Chicago Tribune reported that chief nursing officer Debra Albert of the University of Chicago Medical Center said the union’s “‘primary interest is in striking rather than reaching a deal.’”
CBS News reported that at the medical center, replacement nurses were brought in for the strike and were promised the ability to supplement the work of protesters until Sept. 25. This decision stemmed from the result of complaints from those who planned to return the day after the strike.
Additionally, CBS journalist Mugo Odigwe tweeted, “‘The hospital says their staffing numbers are some of the best in the state.’”
With the disputes, the strikers are unwilling to compromise on what they feel their patients deserve. The Chicago Tribune reported that a second strike is not out of the cards for the union.
“‘We’re going to bargain until we don’t feel like we’re making any progress anymore and then we’ll step back and make a decision,’” Marti Smith, the Midwest director of National Nurses United, told the Chicago Tribune.