It’s looking increasingly likely that more than 500 nurses at McLaren Macomb hospital could go on strike next week. The OPEIU Local 40 has issued a 10-day strike notice to management, and the current contract ends July 27, says union Vice President Dina Carlisle.
“We’re not fighting...about wages,” she said Tuesday, after stepping out of ongoing negotiations she described as heated and passionate. “This is about safe staffing. We don't push paper. We save people's lives. And we care about that.”
The dispute here, Carlisle said, is over the staffing matrix, or how many patients a nurse can be required to care for at once. Between COVID and a new, expanded emergency department, nurses are trying to care more patients than ever before, she said.
“We have nurses with a team of six patients, with ICU patients in that mix. ICU standard of care is one [nurse] to one [patient,] one to two when they're in the ICU. But here's an RN in the emergency room with a larger team.
“This larger building with more beds has allowed management to bring back all these patients from the waiting room, that used to be out there waiting for care. So now they're all being cared for in bigger teams than we’ve ever seen...We have trauma units that really need their matrix made larger.”
A spokesperson for McLaren Macomb said the administration was unavailable for interviews, but issued a written statement:
“We are disappointed to learn that OPEIU Local 40 issued a 10-day strike notice. Threatening a strike and using other pressure tactics have been part of the union’s playbook during previous negotiations. However, the fact that OPEIU Local 40 also has notified McLaren of its intent to strike makes the likelihood of a strike more possible.
McLaren would prefer to settle contract negotiations with OPEIU Local 40 without a work stoppage. We believe there still is a path for both parties to reach a fair, competitive contract for nurses while addressing the changes happening in healthcare and for our organization if the union would play by the rules. OPEIU has used unfair labor practices to stall negotiations and bargaining in bad faith to push our nurses to a strike. We believe that any strike action on the union’s part would be illegal based on their unfair labor practice charges and subject the union to sanctions and damages caused to the hospital.
McLaren remains focused on the health and welfare of our patients, employees, physicians, staff and volunteers. Our hospital will remain open and fully operational during OPEIU’s strike, should it occur. We have been preparing for the unfortunate possibility of the union taking nurses away from patients’ bedsides to walk a picket line. We are implementing a comprehensive strike plan to ensure minimal, if any, disruption for those receiving care or visiting our hospital during OPEIU’s strike. We have contracted with a national firm to provide licensed, experienced temporary replacement nurses who will care for patients during the strike. We are prepared and committed to continually provide high-quality care for our community.”
Carlisle, however, said accusations against the union were “frivolous” and unsubstantiated.
“We are not we are not bargaining in bad faith in any way, shape or form. We are truly trying to get a better nurse-to-patient ratio, is the bottom line. McLaren Macomb RNs care about our community. And that is what we stand for: safe staffing for our patients.”