Hospitals brace
for 3 strikes
this week

But Kapiolani becomes the
second hosptial to reach an
agreement with the nurses union

By Helen Altonn

Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children has followed Kaiser Permanente with a tentative nurses' contract settlement, but three other Oahu hospitals remained under the threat of strike.

Kapiolani and the Hawaii Nurses' Association reached a deal about 9 a.m. yesterday after a 24-hour marathon negotiating session, said Sue Scheider, HNA collective bargaining director. Kaiser agreed to a tentative settlement for its 646 registered nurses Thursday night.

The HNA is recommending that the nurses ratify the proposed contracts, Scheider said.

"Both hospitals go a long way toward making salaries competitive with the national marketplace," she said. Safe patient care and retention of nurses were addressed and "we got our foot in the door" for retiree medical benefits, she said.

In a statement, meanwhile, Kapiolani officials said: "We feel our nurses will be pleased with the proposed contract, which addresses nurse recruitment and retention in Hawaii."

They said they hope their 480 registered nurses will ratify the agreement within the next week.

Nurses at Kuakini Medical Center and St. Francis Medical Center are scheduled to begin striking at 7 a.m. tomorrow if agreements are not reached. At the state's largest hospital, the Queen's Medical Center, 800 nurses are set to start picketing Tuesday.

Queen's management made a "last best offer" at 1 a.m. yesterday, said Bill Richter, Queen's nurse negotiator.

It is closer to what the nurses want in wages for retention, recruitment and safe patient care, but "it's not there," he said. It also retains a mandatory overtime provision, which is a major obstacle, he said.

Last night, the two sides had unscheduled talks that ended at 8 p.m. with no deal.

Queen's nurses are scheduled to vote on management's last proposal from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow, Richter said.

He said the nurses' association is trying to move toward Queen's goal of becoming a "magnet hospital" to attract and retain "the best and brightest nursing staff."

"We're trying for an amicable settlement. Nobody wants a strike," he said.

Richter said Queen's has flown in some traveling nurses and is continuing to bring them in with the intention of continuing full services if there is a strike.

The hospital is paying each nurse $3,000 a week, plus travel costs and accommodations, to replace staff nurses, he said.

"Yet, we're hung up on relatively minor issues. ... It's ridiculous to spend millions to replace us for less than 6 percent difference in wages," he said, explaining the nurses' last request was for a 27 percent wage increase over three years while management's last offer was 21 percent over that period.

At St. Francis, meanwhile, no talks had been scheduled as of yesterday.

"We're praying for a just settlement," spokeswoman Maggie Jarrett said.

St. Francis stopped admitting new patients early last week, and stopped outpatient surgeries yesterday in anticipation of a strike.

Ambulances were diverting patients so no one was turned away for emergency surgery, Jarrett said.

The hospital had dropped to 130 in-house patients yesterday from 194 on Monday, she said.

St. Francis has 370 nurses at the Liliha hospital, statewide renal facilities, a home-care unit and hospice.

Dialysis facilities will remain open on Molokai. On Maui, the Kahana facility will be closed and patients transported to the Wailuku unit. A West Kauai facility will be closed and one in Lihue will remain open. A small home-care program also remain open in Lihue as staffing allows, Jarrett said. Two Big Island renal facilities will be open.

The 1,000 patients on dialysis at St. Francis-Liliha will still be able to go three times a week, but their three to four hours of dialysis time will be shortened by about 30 minutes, Jarrett said.

Kuakini Medical Center
Queen's Medical Center
St. Francis Healthcare System

Hawaii Nurses Association

E-mail to City Desk


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