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UIC Hospital nurses preparing for Tuesday strike

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Nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital on Chicago's West Side rallied Sunday night as they gear up for a possible strike Tuesday. (WLS)

Nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital on Chicago's West Side rallied Sunday night as they gear up for a possible strike Tuesday.

Singing union hymns by candlelight, the nurses come together for a Sunday night vigil. They are threatening a one-day strike if a contract agreement is not reached by Monday night. While both sides say they are very close, the issue of staffing remains a sticking point.

"One of the tenets of health care reform is to try to prevent diseases so that people don't have to come to us, so our hospital might be much smaller hospital three years from now," UIC Hospital CEO Avijit Ghosh said.

And if that happens, Ghosh says, management needs flexibility with its staffing. While layoffs are not part of the contract, nurses worry they could be inevitable if the hospital becomes smaller.

"By saying this could be a smaller hospital, so what are they thinking? They're cutting down on the beds, so meaning if you cut down on the beds, basically that would lay off a lot of nurses," said UIC nurse Terence Yee.

Both sides have been negotiating for a new contract for several months. In the event of a one-day walkout on Tuesday, the hospital is no longer admitting new patients, except for critical ones. In addition, many patients are being moved to other health care facilities.

While there are more than 1,100 nurses, UIC went to court to make sure critical-care nurses work during the strike. It was a move that made the nurses' union angry.

"Management decided to go get an injunction and essentially what we feel is hold some of our nurses hostage and make them work, and that's part of why we're continuing to go ahead with the strike," nurse Jose Moreno said.

"We cannot find nursing replacements for the nurses who work there," said Ghosh.

Both sides hope to reach an agreement during a scheduled mediation session. If one is not reached by midnight, the nurses plan to strike at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, making it one of the first nurses' strikes in the Chicago area in years.





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healthstrikeChicago - University Village
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