Nurses at two HCA Midwest Health hospitals in the Kansas City area are threatening to strike, a move that could force the facilities to transfer patients and delay elective procedures.
Members of National Nurses United voted to authorize strikes at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park and Research Medical Center in Kansas City — as well as 13 other HCA affiliated hospitals in Florida, Nevada and Texas — after months of fruitless contract negotiations with the for-profit chain.
“We’re closer to having a strike than we’ve ever been before, and there’s never been a strike in Kansas City,” said Leslie Rogers, an operating room nurse who has worked at Research Medical Center for 43 years. “It would be a first.”
Nurses picketed at Research during their off hours in June, but so far have not walked off the job.
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Union leaders say that if they decide to move forward with the strikes, they will give facilities 10 days notice to get patients moved out and get procedures rescheduled.
The nurses union’s contract with Research and Menorah expired in May, and negotiations that began months earlier are still ongoing. The union says its main concerns are staffing issues, including turnover and recruitment.
At many of the HCA facilities, 50 percent of nurses leave within three years, the union says.
Rogers said Research Medical Center has done an adequate job of recruiting nurses, but has struggled to keep them, in part because they’re sometimes asked to work extended shifts without extra compensation.
She said the union wants HCA Midwest to provide incentives for more nurses to come in when patient loads increase.
“All the union is asking them to do is to follow their own staffing” guidelines, Rogers said.
In a written statement, HCA Midwest officials said they value their nurses and are proud of the opportunities they provide them, including training programs.
“The countless awards and accreditations our hospitals take pride in are a direct correlation to our passion for and dedication to our caring and compassionate nurses, support staff, physicians and the high-quality of care we provide,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for tactics like this to be used when a union and an employer are in contract negotiations, as is the case with this nursing union. We look forward to continuing our negotiations. Patient care will not be disrupted.”
Rogers said the union has another round of negotiations scheduled next week and will “wait and see what happens.”
She said the nurses still want to avoid a strike, if possible.
“In order to improve patient care at all these hospitals and improve staffing, that may be what it takes,” Rogers said. “They have choices of what hospital they would go to, so we don’t feel like we would be abandoning our patients, we feel like we would be moving forward to offer better care in the future.”