Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Wahiawa General Hospital nurses Molly Gamboa, left, and Nanette Dorr have been on strike since May 5.

Wahiawa hires
traveling nurses

Wahiawa General Hospital has hired traveling nurses from the mainland to replace some registered nurses who have been on strike for more than seven weeks.

Human Resources Director Richard Aea said that between six and eight nurses will start work today.

The replacement nurses will allow the hospital to open up more medical/surgical beds, Aea said.

"We are open with about 10 beds now and have patients in them. But we are looking at going up to 15," he said.

The facility normally operates 27 medical/surgical beds, Aea said.

Aea would not say how much the hospital is spending to bring in the nurses.

The 60 Wahiawa registered nurses have been on strike since May 5. Major issues keeping the two sides apart include salary, hospital contributions toward health care premiums, retiree medical benefits and pay for senior nurses. The hospital presented three offers to the nurses with raises over the three-year contract proposal ranging from 15 percent to 19 percent.

The two sides are so far apart that all discussions have been convened by a federal mediator.

Striking nurse Ella Siroskey, who works in the hospital's intensive care unit, said the nurses have been trying to get the hospital to come back to the bargaining table.

"They tell us the only way they'll come back to the table is if we accept one of the three proposals we've already rejected three times," she said.

With no end in sight, most nurses have found other jobs, she said.

Siroskey said that the amount the hospital will likely have to pay for the traveling nurses would have covered the increased costs of benefits asked for by the striking nurses.


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