CHICAGO (CBS) — From babies to adults, patients were on the move at the University of Chicago Medical Center Monday night.
As CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reported, the patients were the collateral damage of a looming nurses’ strike at the hospital’s facilities.
Late Monday, there was an odd silence at the hospital as a few ambulances had driven through. That was among the impacts of the possible strike – with both sides preparing for Friday.
“This is about safety. This is about compassion. This is about taking care of our patients,” said Talisa Hardin of National Nurses United.
Hardin said lives and well-being are at stake “always, every time we walk through the doors.”
Nurses and patients have been left in limbo, as the U of C Medical Center and about 2,200 staff try to come to a contract agreement.
Hardin said they have been without a contract since April. Their major concern is the average medical caregiver workload.
A spokeswoman said since January 2017, workers have filed 1,700 reports of unsafe conditions to management.
“The medical center refuses to adequately staff us, and it makes me very sad,” Hardin said.
When asked for comment, the medical center released an email that read: “Because of the Union’s actions, [we have] moved thoughtfully and quickly to adjust our operations in anticipation of a possible strike Friday.”
Those adjustments include diverting some ambulances elsewhere, notifying other area hospitals it is closed to virtually all new transfers, and transferring some current patients to other hospitals.
A nurse said the pediatric intensive care unit at U of C is empty as a result. The nurse added that beginning this past Saturday, 28 patients from babies to the age of 18 were taken to Rush University Medical Center, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, St. Anthony Hospital, and Lurie Children’s Hospital.
The medical center said the cost of transferring people to other facilities will not be picked up by patients. But how many patients will be impacted is unclear – with nurses estimating that the number could be in the thousands.
“We thought that patient care was the priority, and to us, it doesn’t really feel like that – moving out patients instead of working with us,” Hardin said. “I’m sure the patients aren’t happy about that either, and so hopefully, we can come to a compromise and stop this.”
When asked if she thought moving patients jeopardized patient care, Hardin said, “I do.”
The hospital system said nurses have coordinated Friday walkouts at a dozen hospitals – including others in California, Arizona, and Florida.
Contract meetings locally were being held Monday night. There was some progress – workers will be reviewing a proposal – but there was not yet a deal.