Healthcare labor disputes prompt strikes, authorization votes: 6 updates

Front-line healthcare workers at several hospitals across the country are walking off the job or preparing for the possibility of a strike, with staffing, pay and benefits among the key issues of contention in contract negotiations.

Here are six updates about labor disputes:

1. Cabell Huntington (W.Va.) Hospital is temporarily postponing some elective surgeries ahead of a potential strike at the hospital Nov. 3 by service and maintenance workers. Hospital spokesperson Kathy Cosco said Nov. 1 that the hospital will re-evaluate the circumstances and work with patients to reschedule surgeries as quickly as possible. 

2. Kaiser Permanente workers in Georgia have authorized a strike, according to the union that represents them. United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1996 announced Nov. 1 that its members in Georgia, including nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare staff, voted 96 percent to approve a strike authorization.

3. Catholic Health notified workers striking at its Mercy Hospital of Buffalo (N.Y.) that their healthcare coverage has been halted until a tentative agreement is reached. The health system said it began sending notices Oct. 31 and will resume payment and administration once Communications Workers of America members approve a tentative agreement.

4. Kaiser Permanente psychologists, therapists and social workers in Northern California, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, joined other unionized workers at the Oakland, Calif.-based health system in authorizing a strike, according to statements from the union and Kaiser. The strike authorization vote by nearly 2,000 mental healthcare workers in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Sacramento took place mostly the week of Oct. 17 and ended late Oct. 25. 

5. Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., released a response from Tenet Healthcare CEO Saumya Sutaria, MD, to a recent letter from a Massachusetts congressional delegation urging him to leave Texas to settle a nurses strike at the Tenet-affiliated hospital. In the Oct. 22 letter, Dr. Sutaria addressed the decision to bring in replacement workers during the strike, a sticking point in the negotiations.

6. Minneapolis-based Allina Health temporarily suspended emergency and urgent care services at its Abbott Northwestern WestHealth location in Plymouth, Minn., as nurses went on strike. The services were suspended from 5 a.m. Oct. 17 until 7 a.m. Oct. 20.

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