Wilcox nurses rebuff proposal
The union calls the hospital's plans to cut 12 positions "highly punitive"
LIHUE » Striking Wilcox Hospital workers overwhelmingly rejected a new hospital proposal, officials with the nurses' union said yesterday.
The offer, made Monday by the hospital administration, "was put out there purely to scare the nurses into crossing the picket line," said Jon Carroll, chief legal counsel of the Hawaii Nurses' Association.
According to Carroll, the offer would include the termination of the positions of a dozen licensed practical nurses out on strike, as well as rescinding two parts of the new contract tentatively agreed upon.
Lani Yukimura, hospital spokeswoman, said the offer was "an effort to start up discussions toward reaching a contract agreement."
She added that the proposal also was geared to address patient care, an issue the nurses have spoken strongly about.
"We have all heard nurses on the radio, TV and in the newspapers saying that they do not believe patient care is safe at Wilcox," Yukimura said in an e-mail statement. "So now we must find a way to prove to the community and to our patients that Wilcox does provide safe and appropriate care."
To that end, the hospital has proposed the nurses take competency tests before returning to work.
Yukimura said that while re-examining the staffing issues, "it has become clearly apparent that the RN position provides for stronger clinical skill and flexibility."
That is why they are phasing out the LPN positions, she said.
Carroll, though, called the proposal "highly punitive."
"We walked in (with) there being three issues on the table" Monday, he said. "When we walked out, there were 25 issues on the table."
In the contract proposal, language over the main sticking point, a staff-to-patient ratio system, actually went backwards, with the administration wanting final say over staffing levels, Carroll said. Previously, the union had been offered a committee of nurses and administrators set up to address their concerns.
"The message we got loud and clear is that (the administration) is not willing to settle this dispute," he said. "All they did was embolden" the nurses.
A second meeting, in which the union is expected to make a counterproposal, is scheduled for July 25.