After management face-off, Ascension nurses plan more strikes

Nurses at three Ascension hospitals in Texas and Kansas are planning one-day strikes Dec. 6, their second round of strikes this year shortly after their coordinated confrontation with hospital management. 

Approximately 2,000 nurses at Ascension via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita, Kan.; Ascension via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita; and Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, plan to strike for one day Dec. 6 to call attention to equipment and staffing problems at their organizations, according to National Nurses United.

NNU represents 900 RNs at the two Wichita hospitals, which have been in contract negotiations since February 2023. The union represents more than 700 RNs at the 391-bed Austin hospital, which have been in negotiations since November 2022.

The union claims that Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin is beset by equipment problems, namely "a lack of functional IV pumps, hospital gowns, blankets, and thermometers, as well as persistent problems with hospital-issued phones that nurses use during their shift for communication."

The Dec. 6 strike is also in response to staffing problems, according to NNU. Specifically, unionized nurses are protesting what it deems an "unsafe 'floating' policy" at the Wichita hospitals, in which nurses are assigned to units where they do not usually work "and may not have the training or expertise to care for those patients." At the Austin hospital, nurses are protesting management's assignment of charge roles to nurses with 18 months of experience. 

"We are disappointed National Nurses United has made the decision to proceed with these strikes, once again creating unnecessary uncertainty for our associates and their families, and concern for our patients and their loved ones," an Ascension spokesperson told Becker's Nov. 27. "Patient safety is our top priority, and our hospitals are well-prepared to remain open and care for our patients during these strikes. We have comprehensive contingency plans in place to ensure there is no disruption in care or service for those we are privileged to serve.

"While we respect the right of our represented associates to participate in these strikes, we believe that differences are best resolved respectfully at the bargaining table, and continue to focus on our upcoming scheduled bargaining sessions as we work together to reach mutually beneficial agreements for all," the Ascension spokesperson said. 

The Dec. 6 strikes will mark the second round for each hospital this year. Nurses at Wichita's Ascension Via Christi St. Francis and St. Joseph hospitals organized a one-day strike this summer, marking the hospital's first. Nurses at the Austin's did the same, marking the largest nurse strike in Texas history. 

The winter strikes were announced shortly after nurses' planned "march on management" Nov. 22 to confront Ascension via Christi St. Joseph, Ascension via Christi St. Francis and Ascension Seton Medical Center administration amid contract negotiations. 

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