Nurses from Wahiawa General Hospital and representatives from the hospital’s administration will resume mediation at 9 a.m. today at the Hawaii Employers Council http://www.hecouncil.org/ in an effort to fend off a strike now scheduled to begin Monday, May 5, 2003.

Unfortunately, all current signs indicate that Wahiawa General’s management remains mired in positions unacceptable to the RNs — large increases to employee health insurance premiums that negate proposed raises, refusal to even provide access to retiree medical benefits (a no-cost item for the Employer), no progress on patient care issues such as restricting mandatory overtime and safe staffing levels, no commitment to violence prevention, a growing problem at the rural hospital, or forcing the dreaded “Paid Time Off” (PTO) on nurses to limit nurses’ sick leave.

In a very unusual move, on April 8, 2003, the Wahiawa staff physicians through the hospital’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Manuel Abundo, Jr., signed a letter to the Hospital’s administration saying, “The Members of the Medical Executive Committee and medical staff at WGH are supporting the nurses at their upcoming negotiations.” The staff physicians also recognized the need to keep their experienced RNs at the only medical facility that provides full service hospital care to the rural community. All items being requested by the RNs are well within the competitive packages now being provided by other area hospitals and health-care facilities.

Sue Scheider, Director of the Collective Bargaining Organization of the Hawaii Nurses’ Association and Chief Negotiator for the Union in these negotiations observed, “The RNs at Wahiawa General have, for some time, been openly questioning the administration’s loyalty to the rural community and management’s adherence to the hospital’s mission.

They have questioned the wisdom of the dramatically curtailed maintenance on the existing hospital facility — while millions of dollars are being pumped into hyping the administration’s much-publicized effort to build a bigger new hospital at Koa Ridge. The Wahiawa RNs have to wonder how a hospital that is driving its nurses to either leave to work at competing hospitals in town or to strike can hope to win the support of the community it seems prepared to abandon without adequate health care.”

When the parties meet today, they will have the assistance of a federal mediator to try to head off a strike.

This will be the first meeting since the nurses overwhelmingly rejected management’s “Best and Final Offer” on Sunday, April 13, 2003, and served a twenty day advance notice of their intent to strike the hospital. Sixty five RNs are represented by HNA at WGH.

”’Scott Foster is the owner of SCOTT FOSTER & ASSOCIATES, an Integrated Communications Consultancy based in Waialua, and is the consultant to the striking nurses. He can be reached at:”’ mailto:fosters005@Hawaii.rr.com

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