Hundreds of nurses picket at SMDCThe union representing approximately 1,300 nurses at SMDC Health System and St. Luke’s Hospital called the picket to draw attention to what it believes are inadequate staffing levels.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Several hundred nurses and their supporters held an informational picket in front of SMDC Medical Center today.
The union representing approximately 1,300 nurses at SMDC Health System and St. Luke’s Hospital called the picket to draw attention to what it believes are inadequate staffing levels.
Bettye Shogren, a member of the union’s negotiating team, has been a nurse for more than 26 years.
“I’ve never seen staffing levels as bad at SMDC as now,” she said. “It’s awful. There’s not enough nurses to do the work that needs to be done.”
SMDC spokeswoman Kim Kaiser disputes the union’s claim that staffing has shrunk to unsafe levels. The hospital monitors staffing needs daily and makes changes as necessary.
Today’s informational picket comes a week after Twin Cities nurses ratified a new contract and avoided a strike by 12,000 union members. As with those talks, contract talks in Duluth have focused largely on staffing levels.
“I’m on vacation and I’m called every day to come in because there is not enough nurses,” SMDC RN Tina Hietala said.
About 750 people were signed up to march in front of SMDC Medical Center on Third Street sometime between noon and 5 p.m. today. Among them was heart-failure patient Rick Fournier of Duluth.
“I wouldn’t be here today without these nurses, period,” he said. “I’m alive five more years than I should be because of nurses. I believe they should not cut staff.”
Not all of SMDC’s patients were sympathetic to the nurses’ demands. Across the street, Jon Solberg of Grand Rapids paused on his crutches to watch the picket line.
“They should be thankful for their jobs,” he said. “Jobs are scarce.”
“It all falls back on our government,” Solberg said. “Health care has been an issue for so long.”
Although the union is in talks with SMDC and St. Luke’s, it decided to only picket SMDC now.
“They (St. Luke’s) have been more willing to talk about options,” Shogren said. “If it doesn’t work out we can picket then.”
The union has a bargaining session with St. Luke’s on Tuesday. The next bargaining session with SMDC is scheduled for July 20.