Nurses at Temple Univ. Hospital go on strike

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Temple Hospital nurses on strike

Nurses at Temple University Hospital went on strike Wednesday. Meanwhile, hospital officials are trying to send the message to patients that care will not be affected.

1,500 nurses and other union workers walked off the job at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday. They have rejected what hospital management calls its "last, best offer."

The nurses' union and the hospital are at odds over wages, benefits and what nurses call a 'gag clause'. The so called 'gag clause' is designed to prevent nurses from reporting problems to outside parties.

"I think people have the right to free speech. I think if we find things that are not acceptable we need to be able to say something about them. We have to protect our patients. We are their voices," said technician Jacqueline Silver.

A letter signed by more than a dozen state representatives also expresses concerns over the provision, saying, "We believe any attempt to limit the legal speech of your employees represents a distraction in the negotiations and may even violate public policy."

The hospital CEO says the provision is directed solely at unions - not individual employees.

On the picket line Wednesday, the number of striking nurses dwindled by late morning. In fact the numbers were so few they had to bring in reinforcements from other hospitals.

"I brought a couple of people from Fitzgerald-Mercy. They worked 12 hour shifts last night and they showed up. They're walking this line to support this," said Fitzgerald-Mercy nurse Terry Malone. When asked if she knew why there were so few Temple nurses there, Malone said "I'm sure they'll be here."

Then, around lunchtime, hundreds of striking workers spilled out into Broad Street right outside the main entrace to the hospital, blocking traffic for a mid-day rally. The crowd thinned out once the rally was over.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's contingency plan is in place. It includes replacement 850 nurses from local and national agencies. Action News is told they spent Tuesday orienting the replacements to the hospital.

"Temple University Hospital will continue to provide uninterrupted, quality care in all of our clinical areas throughout this strike," said Sandy Gomberg, CEO of Temple University Hospital.

Gomberg said the replacement nurses are certified and licensed.

At this time there are no more negotiations scheduled. Nurses have been working without a contract since September.

This strike will be costly to those on the picket line. The union for the nurses and techs doesn't have a strike fund to pay the members during the walkout.

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