UPDATE: Nov. 25, 2019: The nursing strike scheduled to begin Tuesday at the University of Chicago Medical Center has been called off after both sides reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement, officials said Saturday. The nurses are scheduled to vote on the deal Tuesday, according to the union, National Nurses United.
- The University of Chicago Medical Center closed its adult and pediatric trauma centers to incoming patients Wednesday as more than 2,000 nurses prepare to go on strike next week. It's also turning away ambulances to its emergency rooms, although it will still accept walk-in patients. The medical center began diverting trauma patients to other facilities Wednesday.
- Hospital officials claim the strike will have a severe impact on the community and patients. Closing units and diverting patients was unavoidable as the strike will occur over the Thanksgiving holiday and into next weekend, making it difficult to secure backup nurses, the hospital said in a statement Wednesday.
- Johnny Webb, a nurse at UCMC, told Healthcare Dive the union has called a one-day strike and is being locked out on additional days by hospital officials. "We would be willing to come into work [Wednesday] but they are locking us out," Webb said. "I wish I could tell you [why]."
This will be the second strike in recent months for nurses who work at Chicago's South Side medical facility.
NNU nurses held a strike in September after contract negotiations broke down. At the time, the nurses had raised concerns over safety and care needs for patients, according to NNU. Webb said they were also locked out additional days after calling a one-day strike.
Bargaining sessions are scheduled for both Thursday and Friday, the hospital said.
The No. 1 issue for the nurses is safe patient staffing, Webb said. He claims UCMC wants to eliminate 26 nursing positions.
The strike is occurring at a difficult time, UCMC said, warning that Chicago's hospitals are already at capacity.
"As of Wednesday, there were only 3 intensive care beds open anywhere in Chicago," UCMC said in a statement.
The hospital had initially planned to continue to work through the strike by hiring about 900 temporary replacement nurses, but the upcoming holiday will impact its ability to recruit them, particularly in some specialty areas, officials said.
"[T]hese actions were foreseeable and unavoidable because of the Union's decision to call the strike over the Thanksgiving holiday and order the 2,200 UCMC nurses it represents to walk out on our patients," the hospital said in a statement.
Labor disputes seem to be on the rise as 2018 marked a year of increased squabbles, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The education and healthcare sectors accounted for almost all of the disputes.
"The number of major work stoppages beginning in 2018 was the highest since 2007 (21 major work stoppages)," according to BLS.
While experts cautioned it may be too early to say this is a trend, Heidi Shierholz, former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor under President Barack Obama, previously told Healthcare Dive the BLS figures show "there is something meaningful going on."