Nurses In Hialeah And Lauderdale Lakes Go On Strike For Better Working Conditions
This post has been updated with additional information at 3:05 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20.
Nurses are on a one-day strike at two hospitals in Miami-Dade and Broward counties Friday.
Registered nurses with a union called the National Nurses Organizing Committee started picketing 7 a.m. Friday and will continue for the next twelve hours. They're striking at Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah and Florida Medical Center in Lauderdale Lakes.
They're pushing the company that operates the hospitals — Tenet Healthcare — to recruit and retain more nurses in order to reduce high patient-to-nurse ratios.
"All we're asking is for them to invest in the nurses," Yajaira Roman said. She's been a nurse for 18 years and works night shifts in the neuro-intensive care unit at Palmetto General.
"Especially experienced nurses, where we can keep them in the hospital. We're losing them. A lot," Roman said.
Roman is on the union bargaining team for Palmetto General. She's been trying to negotiate with Tenet since February, and the registered nurses' contracts at the hospital expired in March, she said.
"Right now we have no contract," Roman said. "We're not seeing any progress across the table when we negotiate with them… the mortality of the patients do increase if we don't invest in nurses to come in and work and help us out with the patients' care."
Union members say shifts will be covered during the strike and it's up to the hospitals to make sure patients will not be at risk during the strike. The hospitals were given a 10-day notice.
"Patients and their loved ones can be assured that Florida Medical Center and Palmetto General Hospital are staffed with qualified and experienced, non-striking nurses and all our other caregivers through the strike’s duration," Tenent Health said in a statement emailed to WLRN.
"We're hoping that they actually hear our requests," Roman said.
Tenent Health's Florida region is based in Coral Springs. Ten other hospitals run by Tenent in California and Arizona are also striking Friday.
"We are disappointed that the union is taking this strike action in Florida, which in our view is not constructive or necessary," The statement from Tenent continued. "We have made progress toward a new contract and will continue to negotiate in good faith in hopes of resolution. We value our relationship with all our employees, and we are committed to resolving the contract negotiations."
Gillian Edwards-Brown has been a nurse for 19 years. She also works night shifts at Palmetto General, in the Intensive Care Unit.
She said she frequently doesn't get to eat on her 12 to 13 hour shifts, and it's not uncommon to get assigned an extra patient in the ICU.
"We don't want to feel like we're doing tasks, we're not taking care of a thing we're taking care of a person," Brown said. "A person is more than just their diagnosis. They come in with their families, they come in with their problems. It's not just about giving them their pill and moving on to the next one. It's a lot more encompassing."