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Nurses announce one-day strike at Community First Medical Center

Federal regulators fined the Northwest Side hospital earlier this year for failing to follow federal guidelines to properly fit respirator masks for employees, or provide a written “respiratory protection program” for workers.

Community First Medical Center in the Portage Park neighborhood, pictured in February. Nurses plan to strike for one day Monday.
Community First Medical Center in the Portage Park neighborhood, pictured in February. Nurses there plan to strike for one day Monday.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Citing unfair labor practices, unionized nurses at Community First Medical Center plan to go on a one-day strike Monday.

The front-line health care workers represented by the National Nurses Organizing Committee and National Nurses United announced the decision in a Saturday news release.

The nurses accuse the Northwest Side hospital of failing to address staffing, equipment and supply issues amid the pandemic. As a result, they say at least three nurses have died from complications with COVID-19 and at least 60 others have tested positive for the contagious respiratory virus since last March.

In February, Community First was slapped with a nearly $13,500 fine for failing to follow federal guidelines to properly fit respirator masks for employees and provide a written “respiratory protection program” for workers, the Sun-Times previously reported.

“We have asked the hospital to supply us with information on their staffing schedules, and they delayed sharing that information for nearly a year,” emergency room nurse Kathy Haff said in a statement. “We have seen the hospital renege on previously agreed upon proposals and we have had hospital negotiators abruptly end negotiations early without cause. We do not want to strike but feel the hospital management has given us no choice.”

The nurses say the virus has spread among their ranks due to the hospital’s failure to provide optimal personal protective equipment and follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mandated rules. They also said a lack of supplies and inadequate staffing are also among the “chronic problems” that persist at the hospital.

“We can’t retain nurses because working conditions are so bad,” Haff said. “We see a revolving door of young graduates who come for a few months, get some experience and then leave.”

Community First officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Earlier this summer, about 200 nurses walked off the job for a day at Stroger Hospital before agreeing on a new contract with Cook County Health.