Officials at Akron General Medical Center say they will use nonunion nurses and nurse supervisors to
care for patients following a strike by 650 nurses that began Thursday after union members soundly rejected a contract offer.
Hospital spokesman Joe Jerek said the hospital also will
try to discharge patients where appropriate to trim the number of
patient beds from about 300 to 200.
On a normal Thursday,
the 500-bed hospital would have about 400 patients, he said.
"All services including outpatient testing, treatment and
surgery, inpatient care and emergency department care will continue
to be provided," Jerek said.
More than 500 nurses voted Wednesday on Akron General's latest contract proposal, which was rejected by a 4-1 margin, union officials said.
The hospital offered pay increases of 2.5% for three
years, which the union said doesn't cover inflation or match nurse pay raises elsewhere.
Hundreds of nurses, several of them dressed in pastel uniforms, lined several sidewalks near the hospital. At one point, strikers stood in line and locked hands. Many drivers honked in support as they passed by the picket lines.
Wearing her uniform, nurse Tabitha Deguzman carried a hand-made sign that said, "Medics beware: No one to care."
"I strongly support what our union is doing," she said. ""But
I'm also doing this for future nurses, too. I would say the mood
has been very upbeat and determined."
A federal mediator had suggested the strike be postponed by a
15-day cooling off period, which the hospital accepted, Jerek said.
The nurses in the bargaining unit are members of the
Professional Staff Nurses Association of the Ohio Nurses
"When the ONA began its strike, that was an indication of a
rejection of the 15-day cooling off period," Jerek said.
He said the hospital was waiting to hear from a federal mediator
on what will occur next. He said some ambulance calls were being diverted to other hospitals but he had no specific numbers.
Sandy Robinson, co-chairwoman of the PSNA, said the nurses are seeking 3.5% pay increase each year of a new three-year
"The health care plans are becoming unaffordable for us to
afford any kind of decent care, and they want to hire in nurses
with no defined pension plan," Robinson said.
"It's our feeling we are in a nursing shortage that will only
get worse and we are specialized professionals. The hospital needs to be able to give a good benefits package. It is our intent to stay out until our issues are dealt with," she said.
Patient Eddi Parker, 68, came outside the hospital in her
wheelchair to get a breath of fresh air.
"Everything inside is pretty normal," Parker said. "They
still have the supervisors working. It's just the same. They still
drive me crazy."