Hospitals feel the squeeze of growing number of nursing strikes

Nursing staffs have gone on strike at hospitals in Pennsylvania, California, the District of Columbia and Minnesota in the past year, with more of the costly work stoppages planned in the coming months, reports Healthcare Finance News.

Two work stoppages are scheduled at hospitals in Massachusetts this week, and Children's Hospital in Oakland, Calif., is expected to have nurses walk off the job for five days later this month. It will be the second strike at that facility since October.

Union representatives claim that hospital operators are more interested in the bottom line than patient safety. However, nursing strikes can cost a hospital millions of dollars in just a few days. A work stoppage this past March at Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center cost the facility $6 million in expenditures for temporary nurses, extra security and other costs.

Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor recently wired $2.3 million to a temporary agency in preparation for a planned strike for this week that ultimately was averted. It would have been the second strike at the facility in less than six months. Nevertheless, hospital officials say the negotiations and other preparations cost the facility about $600,000.

Strikes also can impact a hospital's role in the community. "When you have something like this--when you have a group of employees knocking down the services of their employer--you get factions within the community," said Jill McDonald, Eastern Maine's vice president of communications. "People would say, 'Well, I'm not going there while there's a strike going on.'"

For more information:
- read the Healthcare Finance News article
- here's the Bangor Daily News article