Kauai nurses move toward strike
LIHUE » Nurses at Wilcox Hospital overwhelmingly rejected the administration's final offer on a contract last night, paving the way for a strike at Kauai's lone full-service hospital.
The strike, scheduled for June 24, is not over money or benefits, but for patients' safety, officials at the Hawaii Nurses' Association said.
Of the 140 eligible to vote yesterday, 113 rejected the offer and decided to strike, while 14 accepted, and 13 did not vote. Eighty-five percent of eligible voters already authorized a strike on June 6.
Executive Director Aggie Pigao Cadiz said the main issue is the amount of nurses on call at a certain time, depending on the amount of patients and their need for care. Money and benefits packages have already been agreed upon.
While Pigao Cadiz said the union would like an established system in place to care for patients, Wilcox management contends that the system developed by the hospital works well.
"At Wilcox, patient safety and care is always our priority and we feel we have excellent staffing," said hospital spokeswoman Lani Yukimura, hours before the vote was finalized. The hospital offered "a generous package. I hope they vote yes."
But Pigao Cadiz countered that the nurses believe there is really no system at all, leaving the possibility that personalities, and grudges, could determine staffing, rather than an established system of care.
Without the system, she said, patients could be "hitting that call button time and time again" as nurses take care of patients with more critical needs.
Pigao Cadiz said last night that the union hopes the vote brings Wilcox back to the bargaining table.
"Hopefully, we will hear from Wilcox" today, she added. "The nurses feel that patient safety must be addressed."
The administration, in their final offer, had agreed to form a committee with the nurses to address staffing needs, "using a strict time frame and expert resources" to reach a resolution on the nurses' concerns, Yukimura said.
But Pigao Cadiz countered that the nurses want an established system, one "based on (scientific) evidence" and approved by the Hawaii Nurses' Association's parent union, the American Nurses' Association. "Wilcox wasn't even willing to look at those," she added.
The strike is set "unless Wilcox is willing to come back to the table and be real serious," she added. "They walked away from the table twice."
The 71-bed Wilcox Hospital, by far the largest on Kauai, is the only hospital on the Garden Island with services for intensive care, imaging, surgery, as well as the largest emergency room, Yukimura said. It is part of the nonprofit Hawaii Pacific Health with Kapiolani Medical Centers and Straub Clinic & Hospital.
Whatever happens, Wilcox Hospital will remain open and will "provide with the same level of care we do now," Yukimura said.