Hundreds of nurses expected to strike at University of Chicago Medical Center as negotiation talks break down

Nurses working at the University of Chicago Medical Center and a number of its outpatient locations will be hitting picket lines Friday morning, as the hospital prepares to call in hundreds of replacements, hoping the avoid disruptions to patients.

At the National Nurses United office in Chicago, the final preparations were being made for a strike. At 7 a.m. Friday, 2,200 nurses will begin to strike.

Despite a federal mediator, negotiation talks between the union and the hospital broke down Wednesday after the two sides were unable to meet a consensus on staffing, according to the union, saying nurses are forced to work overtime and that there are too many patients assigned to each nurse.

“We’re almost stretched out now. … If it gets more dangerous than this, we have lives at stake,” said Helen Bernard, a member of the NNU and a part of its negotiation team.

Some services will be altered, and some patients will be transferred to other hospitals.

The hospital went on full bypass Wednesday night, asking ambulances to take patients to other hospitals.

In a statement, the hospital said staffing levels are among the “highest” in the city. Its head of nursing called the strike “reckless and irresponsible.”

The hospital’s emergency room will still accept walk-in patients, though there may be a longer than usual wait.

Both sides are not expected back to the bargaining table until the middle of next week.