University of Illinois Hospital nurses OK strike over patient loads

About 1,000 nurses voted Wednesday to authorize a strike.

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University of Illinois Hospital

University of Illinois Hospital

University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System

An overwhelming majority of nurses at University of Illinois Hospital voted to authorize a strike for lower patient loads.

The Illinois Nurses Association said 995 nurses voted in favor of striking if the hospital doesn’t agree to limits on the number of patients under the care of each nurse and hiring more nurses. A strike date hasn’t been set, but nurses must give 10 days notice. The nurses’ three-year contract expires Monday.

“We want management to take the nurses seriously,” Illinois Nurses Association Executive Director Alice J. Johnson said Thursday. “[This is a] contract proposal that will actually save lives.”

In a statement, University of Illinois Hospital CEO Michael Zenn said “we are disappointed” to hear of the strike vote, citing “progress in negotiations.”

But staff nurse Terence Yee, who works in the hospital’s neuroscience intensive care unit, said the hospital management was reluctant to discuss the patient limits and “we basically forced them to have a discussion about it.”

Yee said the strike vote was prompted by COVID measures causing the hospital to shut down units and move nurses around to address the pandemic. “They keep telling us that we are heroes,” said Yee, “[but] during these negotiations, they don’t want to do anything for us.”

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