Franciscan Health System responds to St. Elizabeth nurses' plan for one-day strike

Editor's note: The union representing St. Elizabeth nurses issued a press release March 15 and placed a full-page advertisement in the March 16 issue of The Courier-Herald. The press release was posted, exactly as submitted, on the 15th. It is included again here. Immediately below is the response issued by Franciscan Health System. It, too, is exactly as submitted. Neither is a news story prepared by the Courier-Herald staff.


Franciscan response (issued March 16)

Situation: SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW, which represents the 95 registered nurses at St. Elizabeth Hospital issued a news release announcing a one-day strike Tuesday, March 22.

Franciscan response statement:

We regret that the union that represents registered nurses at St. Elizabeth Hospital has chosen a course of action that is both unfortunate and unnecessary.

Franciscan has bargained in good faith to reach agreement since March of 2010, meeting more than 14 times with the union directly and through a federal mediator.

We have proposed a contract that fairly compensates our valued nurses and that provides staffing levels and educational support to ensure that they can provide our patients the highest quality of care.  Our wage-and-benefit offer is comparable to the pay and benefits of nurses at our other four local hospitals.

We are hopeful that we can reach agreement on a contract so that the strike will not occur.  We believe a settlement would be in the best interest of our patients, the community, our staff and our hospital.

St. Elizabeth will remain open and providing patient care on Tuesday if there is a one-day strike.  Our neighbors can count on us providing them expert, quality care everyday.


Nurses' release (issued March 15)

Nurses at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw (formerly Enumclaw Regional Hospital) are set to strike for one day on March 22 over the hospital’s failure to bargain in good faith and make a commitment to patient and staffing improvements.

More than 100 nurses, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, are asking the hospital, owned by the Franciscan Health System, to commit to staffing improvements that would improve patient care and retention of nurses.

The strike is set to begin at 6:00 am on Tuesday, March 22 and continue until 11:00 pm.

“We’ve told the hospital we’re available to bargain every day between now and the strike. We’d rather settle a contract than go on strike, but we need to put our patients first and stand up for patient staffing improvements,” said Kathy Gibson, RN.

Gibson continued, “As nurses, we have great commitment to patient safety in our hospital, and we want to ensure that patients don’t have to wait to get the care they need. We’d like the hospital to make the same commitment to staffing – as a very profitable hospital, they can afford to invest in patient care and work with us at the bargaining table to make our patients a top priority.”

Enumclaw Regional Hospital posted a 14.9% operating profit margin for the 2010 calendar year, with profits of $7.3 million.

The nurses have been bargaining with the hospital for nearly a year. The current contract expired March 31, 2010.


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