University of Illinois Hospital workers set strike date

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More than 1,300 University of Illinois Hospital nurses in Chicago plan to begin a seven-day strike Sept. 12, according to the union that represents them.

The Illinois Nurses Association said nurses voted Aug. 19 in favor of setting a strike date if the hospital fails to substantively discuss limiting the number of patients assigned to each nurse.

The three-year contract between the Illinois Nurses Association and the hospital expired Aug. 24 but was extended to September.

"Negotiations began earlier this summer but after 18 negotiating sessions, the hospital refuses to engage in a substantive discussion about achieving safe staffing by setting a limit on the number of patients that can be assigned to each nurse, a policy also known as 'safe patient limits,'" Doris Carroll, RN, union president, and nurse at UIH, said in a news release Sept. 2.

"Safe staffing is the most important issue in the new contract negotiations," she added.

The union supports pending Illinois legislation requiring minimum nurse staffing ratios in hospitals. But Michael Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics, said in a statement Aug. 20 that the hospital supports a patient acuity-based staffing model that "focuses on obtaining the right nurse at the right time to care for the patient, so we can achieve the highest level of safety, quality, service and health outcomes."

Mr. Zenn said in a statement Sept. 2 that the hospital is disappointed the union has filed a strike notice and is committed to reaching a "fair and equitable new contract that continues our tradition of generous wages and fair working conditions for our valuable nursing colleagues."

More contract negotiations are scheduled for Sept. 2 and Sept. 3. Mr. Zenn said he hopes a strike will not occur, but the hospital is prepared for a potential walkout.


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