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When Nurses Strike: Ohio Hospital Fails to Come to Agreement with Union

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by Melissa Mills Melissa Mills, BSN (Member) Writer Innovator Verified

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and works as a Freelance Writer, Nurse Case Manager, Professor.

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What happens to patient care during a strike? One Ohio hospital is finding out as their nurses have continue into the first week on their labor dispute. Find out the details and how it might impact care.

When Nurses Strike: Ohio Hospital Fails to Come to Agreement with Union

Shortly after 4pm on Monday, May 6th, nurses, physical therapists, and paramedics at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio went on strike. The group of workers, represented by the United Auto Workers Union was unable to reach an agreement with hospital management concerning health care costs, on-call regulations, and overtime policies.

WCPO in Cincinnati reported that president of the health center, Jeff Dempsey, declined to discuss the plan to replace those on strike. He did, however, report that the facility was prepared to handle the walkout. The hospital said last week that they felt the contract they presented to the workers was generous and included increases to staff’s wages.

A Family-Member's Perspective

Have you ever wondered what happens to patient care during a strike? Shirley Parrott- Copus, a family member of a Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center patient, was interviewed by 13abc about the changes in the care she observed. Shirley said that services had dropped since the strike began. She went on to describe the nurses before the strike as “wonderful.” She stated that the morning after the strike started, she was woken by a nurse who asked her where her dad was because she didn’t know. Shirley was alarmed by this event and worried that they had lost her father. Of course, there are many different reasons for the possible missing patient, but to a family member, a statement like that can impact their ability to trust employees.

Parrott-Copus is a nurse herself and stated,

Quote

”I don’t think they’re only standing up for themselves. They’re standing up for the nurses in northwest Ohio and the United States because the issues these nurses have to go across the board everywhere you work.”

Who Cares for the Patients?

When facility administrators can see a strike on the horizon, they prepare by calling in non-union travel and agency nurses to fill in for staff. The nurses who step up to work don’t have any connection to the hospital, but probably understand the issues at hand. They usually won’t cross the picket line and try to keep a low profile on the job.

Travel agencies warn their nurses that tempers can flare at any time during a strike. They advise staff to travel in pairs, remove their name badge and scrubs in public, and to avoid engaging in conversations about the strike with patients, family members, or hospital staff.

During a strike, the work is hard and the hours are long. Many nurses work up to six 12-hour shifts each week. Many agencies require staff to sign a contract agreeing to work up to 72 hours a week if needed. Because the hospital is desperate, they need all hands on deck, but what do these long hours do to patient care?

The Impact to Quality Care

One study conducted in the state of New York found that patient care suffers during nursing strikes. The effects of strikes between 1984 and 2004 revealed that in-hospital mortality increased nearly twenty percent and readmissions went up by 6.5 percent for those patients who came to the hospital during the strike. The study also estimated that 138 more people died because of the strikes.

While patient care continues and nurses from agencies fill in, it’s just not the same as having nurses who are comfortable with the inner workings of the hospital, unit, and even politics of the facility. Other issues such as a sense of ownership might be at play for those who are just there to “fill in” until an agreement is made.

What’s the Answer?

You might be wondering if there is a better solution. Is it better for nurses to continue working in unsafe and conditions, so that patient care remains at a higher level or should they strike and potentially place their patients at an increased risk for adverse outcomes? We’re not sure if there is a right or wrong answer in this situation.

What do you think?

Striking Ohio Nurses

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Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

9 Followers; 99 Articles; 20,574 Visitors; 255 Posts

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OUxPhys has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a cardiac stepdown/progressive care.

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Just curious, why were the nurses represented by the UAW? 

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9 hours ago, OUxPhys said:

Just curious, why were the nurses represented by the UAW? 

Are there any unions that are only nurses?  From my limited experience, it seems like nurses join unions named for/started by other members of organized labor.  My hospital's union is the AFT, though we are not teachers.  

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OUxPhys has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a cardiac stepdown/progressive care.

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Now that you mention it I dont think there is, which is kind of weird. 

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1 Follower; 47,457 Visitors; 2,165 Posts

Years ago when I lived in Ohio the county EMS organized and was represented by the United Mine Workers (UMW).  As a result of the loss of jobs in the auto and coal industries,  with an associated loss of membership, unions like the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the UMW are turning to non-traditional sectors to maintain their membership.  Additionally, both the UAW and UMW have reputations for being skillful negotiators at the bargaining table.

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NotReady4PrimeTime has 25 years experience as a RN and works as a RN, CNCCP(C).

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Union representation for nurses by nurses is the gold standard, but there are so many places across the US where nurses aren't able to collectively organize in large enough numbers to lead to a nurses-only union. Those nurses determined enough to become unionized will seek out support from other, hopefully strong, unions like the United Auto Workers. 

In all ten of Canada's provinces, registered nurses are represented by the provincial nurses' union; LPNs in some provinces are also members, while in others they're represented by the provincial public employees' union. (Under Canada's universal health care system, nurses fall under the heading of public employees along with police, fire, EMS, municipal and others.) In the three northern territories, all health care employees are covered by their public service unions.

Alberta's nurses only recently were given the right to strike after the Supreme Court ruled the province's legislation prohibiting strike action was unconstitutional. But in the absence of a negotiated essential services agreement, the ability to actually go on strike is in limbo. Basically, the employer has all the power in this kind of negotiation; they determine who and how many are "essential" (which usually puts more people on the floor than is the usual baseline number!). When the decision to strike is taken and notice provided to the employer, a "strike schedule" is drawn up and each nurse is expected to work the scheduled shifts. No repercussions ensue for the ones who work their published schedule, but anyone picking up overtime to take advantage of the strike will be censured. The nurses who are working are expected to adhere to only providing "nursing" services - no answering phones, passing trays, transcribing or activating orders, delivering specimens to the lab, picking up blood products, emptying garbage and linen bags, restocking, filing chart copies of labs, or any other task that falls under another non-nursing employee's job description. That's a bit of an eye-opener on most units, when they realize how much nurses do that isn't "nursing work", things we do because they need doing, not because they're OUR jobs. 

Canada doesn't have the same level of agency/travel staff relief that the US does, and in the event of a strike, nursing care is provided by the usual personnel. Does patient care suffer? It probably does, to some extent, simply because nurses are only nursing, so trays will be late, specimens might sit, transfusions might be delayed, needed supplies might not be readily available. But if we don't stand up for ourselves and our coworkers, we get what we deserve.

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When I was working in MN, the metro area Iwas part of the MN nurses assoc.  which was the collective bargaining union for metro hospitals.

 

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These people are lieing. Im on the strike and no such thing ever happened.This is toledo's 1st ever strike and the hospital has been running smooth since we got here. So well that the hospital is opening all there services up completely now that they are confident that we can run the ship. Nurses are nurses no matter where we are in the USA. THE FIELD OF NURSING DOESN'T CHANGE BECAUSE YOU WENT TO ANOTHER STATE.Many of the nurses on these strike have 20 plus years if experience and many are Nurse Practitioners.

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5 hours ago, Nursingwithluv said:

These people are lieing. Im on the strike and no such thing ever happened.This is toledo's 1st ever strike and the hospital has been running smooth since we got here. So well that the hospital is opening all there services up completely now that they are confident that we can run the ship. Nurses are nurses no matter where we are in the USA. THE FIELD OF NURSING DOESN'T CHANGE BECAUSE YOU WENT TO ANOTHER STATE.Many of the nurses on these strike have 20 plus years if experience and many are Nurse Practitioners.

So a pt didn't die because the scabs in the ED couldn't open the code cart? Cuz that's been very widely reported. And if you guys are doing such a good job and everything is running as normally why did only 1 squad go into the ED last night from 1800-0100? We usually have 10x that. But sure everything is business as usual 

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I am also striking and I am saddened that we are trying to stand up for safe working conditions and safe patient ratios and others feel the need to attack us. I am sure that the nurses the hospital hired are qualified to care for patients, and I would hope that are. But 72+ hrs a week is too much when patient safety is on the line. It was too much for us and it is too much for the replacements. I know everyone won't agree with the strike, but it seemed to be the only way to get the hospital to make a change.

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This is a sad situation which no one wins. Not the Hospital, Nurses or patients. And this is all happening for better insurance and a cap on the amount of on call we are on, so patient care is not compromised. Not a lot to ask for. Agency nurses choose to work long hours and days because of the money. Hospital employees choose less money but want stability and relationships with our patients and fellow employees. I have nothing against Agency nursing. But it’s hard to build relationships with patients in 10 days and hard to know how a hospital is suppose to run after 10 days. So for anyone to say things are running smooth, is just odd. And maybe their idea of smooth is different then mine. A hospital is running with 2000 less employees. Doctors, I know for a fact are doing procedures at other hospitals or just canceling.  Family members of employees are going elsewhere. Census is low in the whole hospital. Trust me low census is not normal for that hospital, especially this time of year.  Other hospitals are picking up that are usually slow. You have a whole community backing a strike. Yes there are a few that are against it, but the majority are backing the people on strike. You have a line full of people in front of a Hospital. Nothing is smooth about that. And business is not as usual. And that is a fact not a lie!! I just hope it can be resolved soon. For everyone involved. 

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