If Nurses Walk Out, Will Hospital Performance Suffer?
Mount Sinai, Montefiore Medical Center and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, all are New York City Hospitals that have a good reputation, and all will be facing a critical shortage of nurses, to be exact, 6,000 registered nurses in a walk-out, unless an agreement is signed, sealed and delivered before the end of the year. The problem for the nurses: staffing shortage strains, increased burdens, decreased health benefits. The problem for the hospitals: medicare and medicaid cuts, pressures to cut costs because of changes in health care financing. The problem for patients: how not to get sick during the walk out, and if one does become ill, how to select another hospital that doesn't seem to be impacted, even though hospitals are reportedly contracting for strike-replacements at double the wages usually paid.
The latter problems for patients will not be easy to avoid if one is sick and one lives on either coast. A 24-hour walkout is scheduled for December 22nd at eight hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area and one in Long Beach. In New Jersey and Minnesota advertisements for nurse replacements are hawking "cool locations" and "hot paychecks" for brave men and women willing to confront the anger of their peers by walking past lines of protesting demonstrators. In New York, hospitals have not received the 10-day strike warning required by law. A last minute agreement is possible if the union, the New York State Nurses’ Association, and the hospitals come to terms. But nurses' unions across the country have echoing grievances and what one union does, the others are more likely to follow in solidarity.
It has come down to a disconnect between cultures, the corporate heads and those in the trenches. Nurses who strike voted well past their union majority claim they have not been recognized for their efforts by boards who pay executives millions, yet demand cuts from their staff, and diminished care for their patients. The usual argument is given to rank and file workers (nurses) by managers who justify the pay scale of higher ups as necessary to attract excellence in leadership talent. Their managerial retort? Other American workers have accepted; they pay part of their health insurance premiums, higher co-payments, deductibles and prescription costs. Nurses must do the same.Continued on the next page