Negotiations On Hold; Sparrow Ready to Replace Nurses During Strike

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

Sparrow Hospital's team was sitting at the negotiating table at ten this morning. They say their understanding was this would be a formal negotiation. They even had a federal mediator in the room.

But the Michigan Nurses Association says it wasn't told about the meeting. It says the first they heard about it was when they read in the paper this morning.

Only one MNA was at the table Friday morning. The union says it was prepared to negotiate but that the hospital didn't confirm their meeting. That leaves both sides where they were not too long ago.

"The strike notice came after a couple days of what we thought were pretty productive conversations so we're pretty disappointed but frankly not surprised," said Sparrow Spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney.

Rossman-McKinney says she doesn't know if the hospital can offer much more than what the union has already rejected---a pay increase of 10 to 13 percent and hiring about a 100 more nurses to address staffing needs.

"We've made a very generous offer in very tough economic times so our hope is they'll recognize that and accept it," she said.

She says with the costs of healthcare--Sparrow isn't in a position to pay more to cover its nurses. She says nothing in the way of negotiations is scheduled for the weekend. In the meantime Sparrow's management team is in "full preparation mode." They're taking the strike notice very seriously.

"We're getting ready to make sure we provide the same high quality care to all of our patients come Monday November 22, so we will be ready, able with top notch nurses," she said.

Those nurses will be coming in from all around the country. Sparrow has no choice but to prepare for a strike -- and that means making sure there will be enough able bodies to take over.

"These nurses will focus as all nurses should on caring for the patients first and foremost," she said.

Sparrow says the transition will be seamless and that patients won't notice any difference in patient care.

But the union isn't so sure. It says it finds it hard to believe that patients won't notice a difference in the care they receive from its nurses, who are familiar with the hospital, know their patients, and know the routines, versus what they will receive from outside replacement nurses.

An MNA representative also said it's surprising Sparrow says replacing so many nurses would be so smooth, especially when the hospital prides itself on its nursing staff.


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