HNA MEDIA UPDATE
Sunday, December 8, 2002
THE 2002 HAWAII NURSES' STRIKE
A STATUS REPORT
By Sue Scheider, Director
Hawaii Nurses' Association Collective Bargaining Organization
HONOLULU - Oahu will soon enter the second week of the Registered Nurses' strikes at three of its five largest hospitals. In every case, nearly all of the hospitals' union nurses have stayed on the lines, refusing to report for business as usual. The hospitals are staffing with nurse managers who have, in most cases, not done direct patient care in years and whose minimal ranks have been supplemented, at Kuakini and Queen's, by temporary, highly-paid nurses flown in from the mainland. By now the issues that our striking nurses have been emphasizing are probably resonating very loudly and clearly with those probably fatigued nurse managers;
1. Mandatory Overtime
2. difficulties of providing safe patient care when insufficient, experienced nurses are available;
3. the differences between care provided by a regular staff nurse familiar with a unit and its patients versus what an outside or temporary RN can do, and
4. the need to retain a stable core group of staff nurses on every unit.
We hope that these fatigued nurse managers might begin to add their voices to the message the picketing nurses have been conveying: the hospitals need to listen to the priorities staff nurses have set, to ensure that there will be enough competent, skilled nurses at the bedside to provide safe patient care.
These priorities are all about safeguarding staffing and retaining the experienced and dedicated nursing workforce that is currently out in the street and taking their issues to the community. If the hospitals refuse to heed the message, they will lose not only their invaluable nurses, but also the support of the very community they exist to serve.
For both nurses and the hospitals, this nurses' strike is over the key question of remaining faithful to the mission of the nursing profession and staying true to the community trust.
With the market for skilled, experienced nurses as competitive as it has now grown, the three area hospitals that have not yet gotten the message had better listen to their nurses - if they indeed expect to have any when this is all over.
Registered nurse turnover is incredibly expensive, wasteful, and disruptive. Recognizing the vital role retention plays in maintaining a stable core workforce of experienced nurses, the two hospitals that have settled their contracts have addressed their current nurses' concerns sufficiently to earn approval, for now, by that RN workforce.
Kapiolani Hospital achieved this with a good wage package, including additional progression for senior nurses, by maintaining its strong staffing provisions, by addressing the contentious issue of floating to other units, and by the barest of beginnings in the hot-button issue of retiree medical benefits.
The now-ratified Kaiser contract, which, by the way, garnered far greater approval from its nurses, made real, substantial progress on each and every one of the five priority issues the nurses had identified. The way to keep the nurses happy is to respond to their basic needs.
We would certainly hope that the three hospitals whose administrators look out their windows day and night to see resolute lines of nurses and their supporters picketing their facilities would realize soon that if they refuse to respond to what their nurses need, they will soon not have a permanent nursing workforce.
Not to mention the incredible short-term financial and human resource expenditures required to maintain their unrealistic positions. The striking nurses have already walked out to show their strength of purpose and so it is not a big stretch to realize that these nurses can walk on a little further - to a neighbor hospital that has or will be responsive to nurses' needs if their current employers continue to ignore their clear messages.
Perhaps worse, younger nurses with fewer constraints to remain will be even more motivated to catch the next plane to the mainland where the cost of living is less and the compensation far greater. Anecdotal reports suggest this is already beginning to happen.
Kuakini Hospital needs to deal seriously with its major staffing problems (especially mandatory overtime
and cutting back hours) and provide employer-paid retiree medical insurance.
St. Francis must stay at least relatively competitive in compensation, make a longer time commitment to nurses, and preserve adequate RN staffing. Queen's Medical Center must attend to its nurses' concerns about mandatory overtime
, avoiding Paid Time Off (PTO), retirement benefits including medical, and a competitive wage package.
It is a simple solution. If the hospitals do these things, nurses will stay. If the hospitals do not, they will lose the very nurses who ensure quality patient care and these hospitals will have betrayed their obligation to the community.>>>>
Sunday, December 8, 2002
comments of support for the RNs may be sent at http://www.hawaiinurses.org/contactus.htm