Thursday, May 10, 2001

Molokai nurses
to strike Saturday

The hospital's 6 nurses
haven't had a raise in 3 years

By Rod Antone

All six nurses at Molokai General Hospital will go on strike at 7 a.m. Saturday.

No new negotiations are scheduled and the hospital says it will continue to operate using administrative staff and temporary nurses. It's the first strike in the history of Molokai General Hospital, an administrator said.

Registered nurse Lorraine Pescaia said that over the past couple of years the number of nurses at Molokai General has dwindled from 12 to half a dozen, and that hospital administration has made no effort to replace those who leave.

"We manage, you know what I'm saying?" Pescaia said. "This is my island, this is my home. But we don't want to go along with it any longer."

Hawaii Nurses Association head Nancy McGuckin said Molokai nurses have not had a pay raise in three years. McGuckin said the hospital refused an increase, even though a pay raise for all six nurses would total less than $5,000 a year.

"It should be noted that while Molokai General's administration has seen fit to increase administrative pay, they refuse to increase the hourly wage of the beleaguered nurses who actually care for the patients," McGuckin said in a statement.

Hospital co-medical executive director Dr. Phillip Reyes said the situation is unfortunate.

"We don't want anybody to strike because this is a small community," he said. "But it is their right and I have to understand and respect their right."

Reyes said the hospital is preparing for the strike to last about three weeks. In the meantime Reyes said the hospital will be able to continue opearating, with the exception that anyone needing acute care will be transferred to the Queens Medical Center.

"Our emergency room, especially, will still be functioning as we normally are," Reyes said. "We have trained nurses that are currently serving in an administrative function and we can draw upon them."

Reyes said the hospital will also utilize agency or temporary nurses, though he did not know how many would be hired.

Molokai General Hospital is a part The Queen's Health Systems. The 30-bed facility is the only emergency room and urgent care clinic for the 7,000 residents and visitors on the island, according to a Queens Medical Center Web site.

Pescaia said the strike will be hard, especially since the island is so small and nurses know most of their patients.

"I know all of them. They are my cousins, my aunties, my uncles," she said. "My sons, my grandsons. Molokai is small, and when you're born here you know everybody."

"There are issues on the table that unfortunately we can't resolve," Reyes said. "Given the current employment history on Molokai, we'd rather see everyone working."

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