Replacement nurses arrive to prepare for possible strike http://www.startribune.com/viewers/qview/cgi/qview.cgi?template=health&slug=nurs30
SCABS-R-US on the move......
Replacement nurses arrive to prepare for possible strike
Wednesday, May 30, 2001
A small army of replacement nurses has started to arrive for training in the Twin Cities, as a dozen hospitals in the area brace for a probable walkout Friday by more than 7,700 registered nurses.For now, hospital officials are doing their best to keep the incoming nurses out of the public eye. They've scheduled orientation sessions for today and Thursday at secret locations and won't say where the nurses will be housed.
"It's a security thing," said Linda Zespy of the Children's Hospitals of Minneapolis and St. Paul."It's just the way that it's done with replacement nurses," Zespy said.So far, no new talks have been scheduled. But the hospitals called on the Minnesota Nurses Association on Tuesday to let its members vote on the latest contract offer, which the union's negotiators rejected last week."The hospitals have heard from some of their nurses that they would like the opportunity to vote on the proposals," said Shireen Gandhi-Kozel, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Hospital and Healthcare Partnership.She said four of the six negotiating teams, which represent nurses and managers at the 12 hospitals, agreed on staffing, which is one of the thorniest issues.
The main stumbling block was money, she said, with the hospitals offering a 19.1 percent increase over three years and the union seeking a 35 percent increase."We're asking the Minnesota Nurses Association to put the proposals to a vote," she said.But the union said it has heard no such request from its members. "That's the intent of the hospitals, to override the negotiating committee," said Jan Rabbers, the union's spokeswoman. "But what they'll find is that the membership is the one that's driving the demands." On May 17, the nurses voted overwhelmingly to reject the hospitals' contract offers, which included an 18 percent raise over three years. But nurses say staffing levels are a major issue because they're often stretched too thin to care for patients safely.Hospital officials said replacement nurses would need a day or two of training before replacing the striking nurses Friday. They scheduled the sessions off-site, at secret locations, to keep them away from any possible harm.
"I can understand why they wouldn't want to disclose the location and have 10, 20 media people descend on them, as well as picketing going on outside," said Gandhi-Kozel. "The primary focus is to make sure that they receive education, and we need to have a productive environment for that to happen." Hospital officials said that the replacement nurses, hired by agencies that specialize in strike staffing, have a minimum of two years' experience in hospital care and an average of five to 12 years in their specialty areas. "Whether we're talking about physicians or nurses, we have national standards," said Dr. William Goodall, vice president of regional medical affairs at Allina Health System, which owns four of the affected hospitals. "So if you are a degreed and licensed RN, it's highly likely that you're competent to begin with." Thousands of replacement nurses will be arriving, although the hospitals won't say just how many. They will be expected to work 12-hour shifts six days a week, hospital officials said.
In return, they'll get $40 an hour, plus free housing, transportation and other perks.At HealthEast's three hospitals, 340 visiting nurses are expected to replace 1,100 striking nurses, many of whom are part-time. And the two Children's Hospitals expect 300 replacement nurses to help fill in for the 1,200 or so who will go on strike. To help orient them, officials have brought ventilators, IV systems and other hospital equipment to the off-site training location, Zespy said. "It won't be the same; we want our nurses back," she said. "But in the meantime, we'll assure the high-quality, safe care that we're known for."-- Maura Lerner is at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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Christina Terranova RN, LNC
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