Chicago hospital nurses issue strike notice

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Registered nurses at Community First Medical Center in Chicago plan to strike for three days amid contract negotiations with the hospital, according to an Oct. 18 announcement from the union that represents them.

The nurses, who are members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United union, cite patient safety concerns and are demanding more information about more than $60 million public documents show the hospital received in federal pandemic relief money. Nurses are accusing the hospital of failing to engage in good faith bargaining. Additionally, they claim poor working conditions have caused high staff turnover.

"As registered nurses at Community First, we are extremely concerned about the deteriorating conditions at our hospital and the failure of the owners to address persistent problems that have been exacerbated by their disregard and disrespect for nurses and the safety of our patients," Desirae Efrosinis, an emergency department registered nurse, said in a news release. "The hospital is now failing to bargain in good faith and refusing to honor prior negotiated commitments. Furthermore, we are deeply troubled to learn that Community First received more than $60 million in federal Covid relief money, yet we have failed to see improvements in staffing, supplies or other resources. We must ask, where did the millions of taxpayer dollars go?"

Community First COO Faisal Master and CNO Dina Lipowich, MSN, RN, criticized the nurses' decision to issue a 10-day strike notice, arguing that it is bad for patients and the community.

"In July, after the hospital raised the minimum base rate for our regular nurses to $30 an hour and gave pay raises to all of our nurses in the range of 5 percent to 11 percent, the union leaders organized a one-day strike. As a result of those salary increases, our nurse applications and hires have increased by more than 600 percent," the executives said in a statement shared with Becker's

"Now, after the Hospital circulated a nurse staffing plan that tracks the language set forth in the recently enacted Illinois Nurse Staffing Improvement Act, the union leaders have issued another strike notice," they added. "It bears noting that the Illinois Nurse Staffing Improvement Act was supported by the American Nurses Association, was unanimously passed by the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate, and was signed into law by the governor on Aug. 27, 2021. Like every hospital in the state battling COVID, staffing has been a priority for Community First."

The hospital COO and CNO also said Community First circulated a proposal to the union leadership whereby the hospital would subsidize an 11.9 percent increase in health insurance premiums for 2022, and federal relief money has been used to provide patient care and subsidize the revenue losses at the standalone safety-net hospital caused by the public health crisis.   

The strike is scheduled from Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.

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