Nurses set strike date at UPHS-Marquette

MARQUETTE — UP Health System-Marquette nurses notified hospital management on Friday of their intent to strike on Oct. 5 and 6.

“We have said all along that striking is an extremely serious decision for nurses. We want to be at the bedside caring for our patients. Duke LifePoint has made it all but impossible to provide the care that the Marquette community deserves,” said Scott Balko, an operating room registered nurse and president of the UPHS Marquette RN Staff Council, in a press release.

“We still have four bargaining dates and mediation scheduled before our strike. Now is the time for Duke LifePoint to do the right for patients — guarantee safe RN staffing levels and a hospital environment that will attract and retain nurses for years to come,” Balko said.

Since April 18, nurses have been negotiating contracts and arguing for what they say are guaranteed safe staffing levels needed to protect patients across the Upper Peninsula. RNs have been working without a contract since July 28, after their two-month extension expired.

The release from the Michigan Nurses Association states that since 2017, nurses have filled out hundreds of forms detailing unsafe and dangerous conditions patients face at the hospital. Nurses turned those forms over to the state of Michigan for investigation on Aug. 24.

The report included a list of 111 cases of one or more IVs running dry, medicines being given late, 12 reports of one or more patient falls and 259 reports of one or more nurses going without breaks, lunches or being mandated to work 16-hour shifts.

“We have been negotiating in good faith with hospital administration for over five months now, and they still will not take our patient care concerns seriously. I’m at a loss as to how Duke LifePoint can flagrantly disregard these unsafe situations,” said Stephanie DePetro, an RN in the operating room and member of the bargaining team. “We’ve done everything in our power to talk this through. Unfortunately, Duke LifePoint has now driven us to the point of action.”

On Aug. 29 nurses voted to give their bargaining team authorization to schedule a strike. Since then, Duke LifePoint has failed to address nurses’ patient care concerns, the release states.

“Nurses are advocating for the safety of patients across the UP — Duke LifePoint is advocating for their profits,” said Suzette Hantz, a registered nurse from the Wound Care team and Secretary of the UPHS Marquette RN Staff Council. “If executives from Tennessee think that U.P. nurses are going to just stand down and sacrifice patient safety, then we’ve got news for them. Marquette nurses will stand strong together until Duke LifePoint shows us that they care.”

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.

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