10/4/07

Hospital getting along fine without nurse unionists

More than 500 registered nurses spend their third day on strike at Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hospitals across the region. Union members with the Kentucky Nurses Association say they're hoping for more than better working conditions. They want a new law.

In an emergency, Doctor Mark Francis says the Hazard ARH E.R. is still fully prepared and capable of taking care of patients regardless of what goes on outside the building. "There's a lot of emotions that go both ways and we're just here trying to take care of people," Dr. Francis said. Doctor Francis says the majority of ER registered nurses decided to stay and refuse the strike.

"We have hired system wide, 20 replacement workers and system wide there's about 130, at last count, of the ARH nurses who have made the choice to continue work and care for the patients," said ARH Spokesperson Candace Elkins. More than 500 registered nurses standing on the picket line say there are bigger issues at hand that affect many nurses statewide, but especially with ARH.

"Hours in a week, people like having extra time, but when you're working more than 16 hours straight at a time, that's when you start running into problems and patient safety issues," said Tim Vires.

ARH officials say when patients need care, the hospital staff has to step up and work extra hours to make sure healthcare comes first.

"Here at Hazard, much of the mandatory overtime happens when nurses call in and unexpected absences," said Senior Community CEO Donnie Fields.

KNA members on the picket line say there's a bigger picture beyond the strike.

"We're hoping for new legislation to be passed so that nurses are not responsible for a large number of patients. We need better guidelines," said Michelle Hoskins.

There are numerous security guards surrounding the property at Hazard ARH, most of which have video cameras constantly recording the nurses on the picket line. ARH officials say they are strictly there for security purposes, a measure they wanted to increase after the Steel Workers' strike earlier this year.

(wkyt.com)

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