Nurses, Kaiser
reach accord

The nurses group hopes the agreement
will spur the other 4 hospitals to settle

By Helen Altonn

The Hawaii Nurses Association hopes a tentative agreement with Kaiser Permanente will spur efforts to settle contract disputes at four other Oahu hospitals.

Otherwise, the nurses will begin striking at 7 a.m. Monday.

The HNA-Kaiser agreement was reached last night after a marathon, nonstop, negotiating session that began at 9 a.m. Wednesday and continued through Thanksgiving, with a federal mediator assisting.

Staffing, pay and retirement were major issues.

"We are giving thanks on this Thanksgiving Day for having reached a tentative agreement," Sue Scheider, HNA collective-bargaining director, said last night. "We hope it will be the first of five."

She said Kaiser's proposal made "substantial progress toward all of our major objectives."

Kaiser spokesman Chris Pablo said today, "We agreed upon a generous wage and benefit package which includes enhancements to our longstanding retiree health benefits package."

He said the hospital informed about 200 traveling nurses who were prepared to fly here if a strike occurred Monday that their services will not be needed.

Union spokesman Scott Foster said he hopes the agreement, which still must be ratified by Kaiser nurses, will be a model for the four other hospitals that have received strike notices.

Negotiations resumed today between HNA and Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and talks were scheduled today and tomorrow with The Queen's Medical Center.

The association represents 2,500 nurses who have made signs and are prepared to work on picket lines if no new contracts are reached by the strike deadline.

"I think it's safe to say there's a resolve there that we haven't seen before," Foster said.

Kuakini will meet with HNA nurse negotiators Sunday.

No negotiations are scheduled with St. Francis Medical Center in Liliha.

"We certainly would hope that would be addressed as well," Scheider said. "We're certainly willing to entertain further discussion.

"The issue for us, if they don't remain competitive with other hospitals, pretty soon it will be a ghost town because nurses won't stay if St. Francis falls further behind."

On Wednesday, St. Francis officials said the hospital had stopped admitting new patients and would stop outpatient surgeries tomorrow in anticipation of a Monday strike.

A key issue at St. Francis is the employer's proposed elimination of registered nurse care manager positions which would not be replaced in the affected units, the union said. This would put an additional workload on remaining nurses and have a major impact upon safe patient care, it said.

A federal mediator has been asked to help with the contract negotiations.

Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children has given the nurses a final "take it or leave it" offer.

But nurses said the offer does not address key priorities for the nurses: Adequate staffing to ensure quality care, paid retiree health insurance for everyone and retention of experienced nurses, with improved wage scales.

Wage increases of 6.5 percent per year for three years are offered and some increases in differentials.

Foster said the Kapiolani nurses will have to decide whether the wage increases are enough to keep them from going on strike, but nurse negotiators are recommending against accepting the terms.

The hospitals have cited financial difficulties because of inadequate Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and high operating costs.

"All that is certainly true," Foster said. "But whose responsibility is that? The nurses are nurses, and there are layers and layers of highly-paid bureaucracy."

Nurses at Queen's can strike starting Tuesday morning while those at the other three hospitals can picket starting Monday morning.

Hawaii Nurses Association

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --