Ascension nurses in Illinois go on strike

Members of the Illinois Nurses Association began a two-day strike Aug. 22 at Ascension Saint Joseph-Joliet (Ill.). 

Union members voted to authorize a strike in July, according to an INA news release shared with Becker's. The union and hospital have been in negotiations for about three months.

Staffing has been among the issues cited by the union during negotiations. 

Union members contend that the hospital is regularly understaffed, which endangers patients. Hospital management has been increasingly relying on agency nurses to operate Saint Joseph-Joliet while staff nurses have been departing, they said, according to The Herald-News.

Ascension Saint Joseph-Joliet, part of St. Louis-based Ascension, has emphasized its focus on patient safety and operations during the strike. 

"Patient safety is our top priority, and Ascension Saint Joseph-Joliet is well-prepared to remain open and care for our patients during this short-term strike event," Ascension said in a statement shared with The Herald-News. "We are focusing our full attention on making every provision for ensuring the health and safety of our patients, families, providers and associates."

Physicians will schedule and perform surgeries as needed and "support services will continue as normal," Ascension said, according to the newspaper.

Ascension said in an Aug. 14 news release that it contracted with a staffing agency to provide access to replacement nurses, and the hospital is contractually required to commit to a minimum of four days of work for any registered nursing staff replaced, starting from the first day of a strike. This means Ascension Saint Joseph-Joliet represented registered nurses will be temporarily replaced starting Aug. 22 and will be able to return to their scheduled shifts beginning the morning of Aug. 26, when the contract obligation is fulfilled.

Both sides are slated to return to the bargaining table Sept. 8, The Herald-News reported.

"I'm really hoping it gets Ascension’s attention," nurse Kaitlyn French, communications chairwoman for the St. Joseph's Nurses Association, which is the Joliet local chapter of the Illinois Nurses Association, told the newspaper. "I'm really hoping they are going to make some contact with us and say, 'We said we're not going to meet with you until the second week of September. Let's take another look at that.'"

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