What would the impacts be if nurses strike at Kapiolani Medical Center?

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — A total of 93 percent of nurses at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children voted to authorize a strike against the hospital forcing the big question: what happens next and how will this impact the community during a pandemic?

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“The nurses have spoken. It is very clear they feel the hospital has left them no choice but to take this action to protest Kapiolani management’s disregard for our concerns and the hospitals continued unfair labor practices,” said Daniel Ross, President of the Hawaii Nurses’ Association (HNA). “We hope this serves as a wake-up call to Kapiolani’s management.”

The nurses’ union says it saw an unprecedented voter turnout as tensions continue to mount over stalled contract negotiations. If a strike was to take place, Ross says the patients would not get the same level of care. But to make sure no lives are put in danger, the union has been talking about possibly forming an emergency response team.

[RELATED: Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children nurses vote to authorize a strike]

“If there was something that was threatening, something very serious, we would send a team in, cross the line and take care of the problem,” assured the HNA president.

The union has also heard the hospital may be hiring traveling nurses if there’s a strike, which Ross says are in high demand right now.

“It’s like the Governor of California is out there begging nurses to come help his state. So I don’t know, maybe they can find some but they’re willing to put the money out for that,” said Ross.

“Anytime we enter into negotiations, the hospital does do contingency planning because we’re so important to our community,” explained Sunshine Topping, Hawaii Pacific Health Senior Vice President of Human Resources.

Hospital officials say there should be very little impact to patient care if a strike was to take place. Additionally, Kapiolani says they’ve received assurances from an agency that nurses would be available.

“Because we are a Women’s and Children’s hospital, a lot of the areas of specialty that we would be needing to get travelers for, they’re not nurse specialties that are in high demand for COVID-19 treatment,” said Topping.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Kapiolani has experienced major declines in patient census numbers. The loss in volume and patient activity has had a significant financial impact, which is estimated at $21 million for the period from March through October 2020. Despite this challenging economic landscape, we presented a fair offer that includes wage increases totaling 5 percent over the three-year contract, the continued payment of 100 percent of healthcare premium costs for nurses with single coverage, and many other benefits,” said Kapiolani Medical Center’s CEO. Martha Smith in regards to negotiation talks with the HNA.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green says Hawaii Pacific Health, which Kapiolani Medical Center is a part of, is taking care of the second highest count of COVID patients in the state as of Sunday, Jan. 10. While hospital numbers dropped a little over the weekend, Green says there are still plenty of cases.

“So we’re still in the throes of, you know, the surge,” said Green. “It’s a time for all hands on deck and I’m positive they’ll work out their differences.”

Discussions between the union and the hospital with a federal mediator are scheduled for this Wednesday.

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