U of C Medical Center braces for nursing strike after talks break down

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CHICAGO – The University of Chicago Medical Center is preparing for its first-ever nursing strike after negotiations broke down late Wednesday.

Around 2,200 National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United(NNOC/NNU)-represented nurses are set to strike at 7 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20.

The hospital went on full bypass late Wednesday ahead of the strike, asking ambulances to take patients to other hospitals in the region.

“We’re disheartened that we had to get to this point,” said Sharon O’Keefe, University of Chicago Medical Center President. “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 center has enlisted hundreds of contractors, who who began arriving in Chicago from across the country this week, to maintain operations at the 618-bed hospital.

But because of concurrent nursing strikes called by NNOC/NNU at a dozen hospitals around the country, the medical center has been able to retain fewer replacement workers than initially planned.

To make sure the center is fully staffed, UCMC has taken the following steps:

  • Putting both the hospital’s pediatric and adult emergency departments on bypass.
  • Placing both Level 1 pediatric and adult trauma programs on diversion.
  • Limiting virtually all transfers from community hospitals.
  • Temporarily closing a number of inpatient units.
  • Rescheduling some elective procedures.
  • Transferring patients on a case-by-case basis to other facilities.

The NNOC/NNU and UCMC have been negotiating since the spring to try to reach agreement on a new contract for the 2,200 nurses represented by the union.

The union’s previous contract expired in mid-April. Both sides have been meeting with a federal mediator since the union called the strike.

Updates on bargaining can be found at www.ucmcnurses.org.

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