Ascension sets contingency plans ahead of nurses strike

Ascension hospitals in Texas and Kansas are making staffing preparations ahead of a planned one-day nurses strike June 27.

The strike is slated to involve members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, an affiliate of National Nurses United. The union represents 900 nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, as well as 650 nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kan., and 300 nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital, also in Wichita. All three hospitals are part of St. Louis-based Ascension. 

Union members voted to authorize strikes in May and June. The union and hospitals have been in negotiations for months. The union contends that during contract negotiations, Ascension management has not offered adequate solutions for safe staffing protections and nurse recruitment and retention, which nurses say is critical to ensuring patient safety. Ascension said in news releases that management has been bargaining in good faith and will honor scheduled bargaining dates.

In preparation for the strike, Ascension has contracted with a staffing agency that specializes in work stoppage events, according to hospital news releases.

Ascension said the contract requires a commitment of a minimum of four days of work for any registered nursing staff replaced, starting from the first day of a strike. 

Ascension Seton Medical Center, Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Hospital and Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital nurses who choose to work June 27 will not be replaced, the health system added. Nurses who are not working June 27 will be temporarily replaced and will be able to return to their scheduled shifts beginning the morning of July 1.

Union members have condemned these plans "as a deliberate ploy to intimidate nurses from speaking out and demanding action on the conditions they decided to strike over."

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