With just hours to go before the first-ever nurses strike at the University of Chicago Medical Center, there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on: there’s no winner in this situation.
The 7 p.m. nursing shift change at the hospital is the last one for several days, and at 7 a.m. Friday morning, approximately 2,200 nurses are expected to walk off the job as part of a one-day strike.
“Our goal is to heighten awareness of staffing,” nurse Rukiya Griffin said. “Ratios are at an all-time low.”
After a week that saw the hospital begin to transfer patients to other facilities, and turn away new patients, nurses are drawing up protest signs as they prepare to walk the picket line.
“We feel that they are not listening to our concerns over the last 18 months,” nurse Pamela Valentine said. “There’s been 1,700 forms filled out citing unsafe staffing concerns, and the hospital isn’t addressing it.”
Patients turned away from the hospital are saddened at the turn of events, including Shorell White, who has sickle cell anemia.
“They told me they were sending me straight back home,” she said.
Another parent, Chenille Frasier, has three children with the disease, and she says all three of her kids get treatments at the hospital regularly.
“I hope there’s no strike,” she said. “Give the nurses the money they need.”
The hospital has hired a group of temporary nurses to make up for the expected staffing shortfalls.
“We’ve been preparing through since we got this 10-day strike notice,” Chief Nursing Officer Debi Albert said. “So now we are in final prep mode. This is a day no nurse wants to see coming. It’s so sad and painful, yet we know we’ve got to do what’s right for our patients so as an organization.”
Babies at Comer Children’s Hospital were transferred out of the neonatal and pediatric care units in preparation for the strike.
Nurses are expected to be walked out of the hospital on Friday morning to start what they wanted to be a one-day strike, but the hospital has said it will lock out the employees for five days.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the hospital says it was required to lock out the employees because the skilled nurses hired to replace the employees had to be given a guarantee of work in order to hire them.