CHICAGO (WLS) -- Workers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are calling for more staffing and better wages as their union begins negotiating a new labor contract.
Staff members handed out information about their concerns Tuesday to people passing by the hospital.
Karen Peck is among the surgical technicians who make sure the equipment is safe for dozens of procedures each week at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
"It's been really stressful," she said. "We've been working a lot of hours and it's also harder because we are so short staffed."
Anne Igoe, the union's vice president for health systems, said the biggest concern is staffing shortages that are leading to delays for patients and fewer people to care for them.
"Folks are being asked instead of a one-on-one safety aide, they are being asked to watch two patients," Igoe said. "Folks in the emergency room are being asked to watch 6 to 8 patients, which in no way is ever safe."
SEIU Healthcare represents 1,200 workers at Northwestern, including those who assist with patient care, housekeeping, dietary needs, and the supply chain.
"Us working short staffed hurts our patients," supply chain worker Mark Plumber said. "They are not getting tests in time. If you're short staffed, you can't move patients, can't move them when they need to be moved, that delays testing."
The current contract for Northwestern's support staff ends January 28.
In a written statement, Northwestern Memorial Hospital said: We look forward to collaborating with the SEIU as we begin discussions on a new collective bargaining agreement. Northwestern Medicine is one of Chicago's largest providers of care and employers. We care for patients regardless of their ability to pay across our more than 200 locations. Our recent announcement of a new state-of-the art facility in Bronzeville will help us enhance the care we already provide, meeting the needs of families where they live and work. We welcome the SEIU's participation in our efforts to recruit additional staff to support our efforts. We are extraordinarily grateful for the ongoing support of our employees through the pandemic and the work they have enabled for the communities we serve. We look forward to working with the SEIU to develop a new agreement.