CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing the possibility of a second nurses’ strike next week, the University of Chicago Medical Center is shutting down its trauma center, and diverting ambulances to other hospitals.
The hospital went on ambulance bypass for pediatric patients on Monday and for adult patients on Wednesday. Its emergency rooms will remain open to walk-in patients.
The hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center on the South Side of Chicago, meaning until it lifts the ambulance bypass, the most seriously injured patients on the South Side will have to be taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in southwest suburban Oak Lawn, or one of several trauma centers on the North Side.
UCMC also is transferring 50 premature infants from its neonatal intensive care unit, 20 other children in its pediatric intensive care unit, and some high-risk pregnant patients to other hospitals ahead of the strike. The hospital also is rescheduling elective surgeries.
The union representing approximately 2,200 nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center notified the hospital last week that they plan to hold a one-day strike on Nov. 26, two days before Thanksgiving.
National Nurses United, the union representing UCMC nurses, said they will remain at the bargaining table until their strike deadline, in an effort to hammer out an agreement.
The union has said it plans a one-day strike if it cannot reach a tentative agreement by Tuesday, but the hospital has said if the nurses walk off the job, it will keep them out for a total of five days, because it needed to provide minimum guarantees to temporary nurses who will be brought in to replace the union nurses.
The hospital also locked nurses out for five days in September when they staged another one-day strike over the lack of a contract. The facility also was placed on ambulance bypass for several days due to the September strike.
UCMC president Sharon O’Keefe said the hospital is trying to recruit 900 temporary nurses for the strike, but said it will be difficult to find people willing to work so close to Thanksgiving.
“At the same time, other hospitals in the city are already at or near capacity, which means they will not be able accept transfers of current inpatients if that need arises when nurses walk out. The combination of the two led us to take the step of temporarily closing our trauma program ahead of the strike,” O’Keefe said in a statement.
The hospital and the union are scheduled to hold their next bargaining sessions on Thursday and Friday.