UIH nurses vote to authorize a strike, demand more reasonable nurse-to-patient ratios

On Thursday, nurses from the University of Illinois Hospital, who are represented by the Illinois Nurses Association, voted 995 to 12 to authorize a strike against the Chicago hospital. 

This vote will allow nurses to strike at any time following a 10-day waiting period.

Currently, there is a three-year contract between the Illinois Nurses Association-represented nurses and the University of Illinois Hospital. This contract is set to expire Aug. 24.

“Negotiations began earlier this summer but after more than a dozen negotiating sessions, the hospital refuses to engage in a substantive discussion about achieving safe staffing by setting a limit on the number of patients that can be assigned to each nurse, a policy also known as “safe patient limits,” said Doris Carroll, RN, INA President, and nurse at UIH. “Safe staffing is the most important issue in the new contract negotiations,” Carroll stressed.

INA says they are in support of the passage of the Safe Patient Limits Act (HB 2604), which would require hospitals to follow more reasonable nurse-to-patient ratios.

During a media briefing on Thursday, nurses shared results of a new peer-reviewed study examining how safe patient limits could improve patient care in New York and Illinois. 

"It is very important for the public to take note that in this large study of nurses practicing in New York and Illinois hospitals, half of the nurses gave their hospitals unfavorable grades on patient safety and two-thirds would not definitely recommend their hospital to family and friends," said Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, a senior researcher, and professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

New York state and Illinois have pending legislation requiring hospitals to meet minimum safe nurse staffing standards, which would mean there would be no more than four patients per nurse on adult general medical and surgical units.

“Gov. Pritzker promised during the primary for Governor that he would sign a bill (on safe staffing) if it came across his desk.  We call on him to support us in this matter and get behind HB 2604,” she said.

Aiken said that according to the study shared at the briefing Thursday, half of the nurses gave their hospitals an unfavorable grade on patient safety.

Additionally, a third gave unfavorable ratings on prevention of infections, and finally, 70 percent of nurses said they would definitely not "recommend the hospital where they worked to a family member or friend."

“The research and our experience, demonstrate that many hospitals, including those in Chicago, are not operating with safe staffing ratios,” said Carroll.

INA says there have been 16 negotiating sessions conducted so far, however, there hasn't been much progress toward a new contract.

INA has also filed an Unfair Labor Practice Act against the hospital with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB).