University of Chicago Medical Center moves patients to other hospitals in anticipation for nurses' strike

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The University of Chicago Medical Center is moving some of its pediatric patients to other hospitals, in anticipation for a possible nurses strike on Friday.

Hospital officials notified the hospital's staff Monday with a memo outlining the plans, should at least 2,200 nurses go on strike as planned.

Many nurses said being a caregivers is a calling, but being able to help their patients to the best of their ability has been compromised by chronic short-staffing.

"We love our patients, we care about our patients. We want to provide the best care that we can, said Registered Nurse Sincerely Lewis. "When we're stretched too thin, we feel like we're just not providing enough or adequate care."

The hospital's contract with the National Nurses Union expired in April. Their main concern is the caregiver workload. In the past year and a half, workers have filed more than 1,700 reports of unsafe conditions to management.

"We need to be able to take care of our patient physically, mentally, spiritually," said Pediatric Nurse Brigitt Manson McTony. "I need to be comfortable when they get discharged."

Once notified of the strike, the hospital scaled back operations. The patients being transferred are some of the babies and children in the hospital's neonatal and pediatric intensive care units.

"To have to scale back is painful. I think it's painful for our nurses as well. I would tell you that with this workforce disruption, no one wins," said Senior VP, Patient Care Services Debi Albert.

It's possible a strike could be averted if the hospital and nurses union reach an agreement before Friday. The two sides continue to negotiate.

"I think we've got the outcomes to show not only are we adequately staffed, we've got amazing clinicians here in our organization," Albert said.

The hospital said that it plans to replace the nurses for five days, per its contract with the agency providing temporary nurses, even though the nurses plan to strike for just one day.

The hospital will stop accepting new patient transfers from other hospitals and is rescheduling some elective surgeries and appointments, the memo stated.

Four hospital units were closed Sunday night, and additional units could be closed as reductions continue, the memo stated. The closed united are all adult units, including an adult intensive care unit.
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