Nurses go on one-day strike after two-day lockout

Hundreds of nurses at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor went on strike for increased staff following a two-day lockout imposed by hospital administrators, reports the Associated Press.

After nurses delivered a strike notice on Nov. 10, EMMC officials announced they would enforce two no-work days for nurses due to costs related to securing nurse replacements, according to the Bangor Daily News. The hospital hired about 215 registered nurses from around the country to work during the three-day work stoppage.

The EMMC staff nurses' contract with the hospital expired Sept. 30. At issue for a new three-year deal are nurse staffing levels, health insurance costs and the practice of moving nurses from one specialty unit to another against their wishes, notes the Associated Press.

"They cut back the total number of nurses, then they cut back the hours," nurse Bobbi Coombs, who works on the fifth-floor orthopedic unit and has worked at EMMC for 23 years, told the Daily News. "It is getting harder and harder to provide the care we want to give."

Gov. John Baldacci has asked the two sides to restart negotiations "as soon as possible," and the next scheduled meeting with a federal mediator is Nov. 29. Nurses would meet sooner if the hospital showed interest, Vanessa Sylvester of the Maine State Nurses Association told the Daily News.

However, Greg Howat, of EMMC's negotiating team, stands by the Nov. 29 date, as it will give both sides time to "self-reflect" after the three-day work stoppage, notes the Daily News. Howat also said the hospital has no intention of including staffing levels in the nurses' new contract.

For more:
- read the Associated Press article
- read the Bangor Daily News article
- check out EMMC's Nursing Contract Negotiations web page