Union accuses Amita Health of recruiting out-of-state replacement nurses for strike

The union representing nurses at Amita Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill., is accusing hospital officials of violating state permitting regulations by recruiting out-of-state nurses to replace striking ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Illinois Nurses Association, which represents more than 720 Saint Joseph Medical Center nurses, said in a news release that it sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, contending that Amita Health hired a recruiting firm that is reaching out to out-of-state nurses to fill temporary positions during a planned strike, in violation of state permitting regulations.

In the letter, the union cites the department's March 20 proclamation that permit holders "are limited to providing treatment in response to the COVID-19 outbreak."

"Hence, it appears that Amita and its contractors are attempting to use emergency permits that are intended only for responding to the pandemic for purposes of aiding the hospital in a labor dispute," the letter states, before asking the department to intervene.

Nurses at Amita Health Saint Joseph Medical Center have issued a 10-day strike notice and could walk off their jobs as early as July 4.

Amita Health said it is prioritizing the health and the safety of the community ahead of the planned walkout and disputed the union's claims.

"If a strike occurs, we are providing uninterrupted, high-quality care and service throughout," the health system said in a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review. "All nurses being called in to assist for the duration of the strike are licensed in Illinois and background checks have been performed on each in compliance with state regulatory requirements."

Amita Health and the Illinois Nurses Association have been negotiating a new contract, with pay and benefits being key sticking points. Both sides are slated to return to the bargaining table June 30 and July 8. 


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