Nurses at University Medical Center in Fresno To Stage 24-Hour Strike
The California Nurses Association on Friday announced that about 300 registered nurses at University Medical Center in Fresno would participate in a 24-hour walkout, beginning Nov. 23, after "stalled contract negotiations" concluded between the union and officials at Community Medical Centers, which owns UMC, the Fresno Bee reports.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last year unanimously upheld a 2001 ruling ordering University Medical Center to recognize CNA. Community previously had refused to recognize or bargain with CNA, which had represented nurses at the center since 1976.
Under the ruling, Community has to bargain with CNA as the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees and compensate the nurses for wages or benefits lost since the firm's 1996 takeover of the hospital from the county (California Healthline, 7/29/03).
CNA, which has been negotiating with the hospital since October 2003, last month held a vote to authorize the strike. However, it appeared last week that the two sides "were making progress," and the union agreed to delay the strike, the Bee reports.
Central Valley CNA Director Don Nielsen said the two sides "started making a little bit of progress on Friday" but failed to reach an agreement. "Basically, the hospital took a hard-line position" on some issues such as wages, pension benefits and "some patient care language," Nielsen said.
Linzie Daniel, Community's senior vice president of human resources, said she was not surprised by the strike notice, adding, "This was something they felt they had to do. I was a little surprised because I thought we made some very good progress before the tenor changed."
According to the Bee, the walkout could "potentially disrup[t] emergency medical services in the area" because UMC houses the highest-level trauma center between Los Angeles and Davis. However, the Bee reports that the potential effect of the strike on the Level 1 trauma center and burn unit at UMC "remains to be seen."
UMC plans to use managers and supervisors who are registered nurses to replace the striking staff. Nurses from a staffing agency and other Community hospitals also could be used for help. Despite the use of substitute nurses at UMC, officials from Saint Agnes Medical Center in north Fresno say they expect patient volumes to increase at their facility during the strike and are attempting to add more staff.
Daniel Lynch, division manager for Fresno County emergency medical services, said, "We are working with the officials at UMC at this time to see what the impact on emergency medical services will be. It will be fully dependent on what resources the hospital can maintain during the 24-hour period."
Bruce Kinder, vice president/administrator at UMC, said, "Even a one-day strike is a costly endeavor. The nurse work force is not an inexpensive resource."
Nielsen said CNA had prepared an emergency work force that would be available in case of unforeseen medical emergencies (Fresno Bee, 11/16).