The nurses of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children have voted to authorize a strike amid their ongoing negotiations with the hospital, the Hawai’i Nurses Association said.

The vote to authorize the strike comes after nearly half a year of contract talks between the nurses’ union and the hospital, signaling growing tensions and frustration among staff.

The union says 93% of the nurses voted in favor of authorizing the strike.

Nurse hold signs protesting at Punahou street near Kapiolani Womens and Childrens hospital.
The nurses of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children have voted to authorize a strike, the Hawaii Nurses Association said. This photo shows the nurses picketing in December. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Nurses are now reportedly working on plans to finalize a strike, and details are forthcoming, the union said.

“The nurses have spoken. It is very clear they feel the hospital has left them no choice but to take this action to protest Kapiolani management’s disregard for our concerns and the hospital’s continued unfair labor practices,” said Daniel Ross, president of the Hawai’i Nurses’ Association OPEIU Local 50. “We hope this serves as a wake-up call to Kapi’olani’s management.”

“We have continued to extend ourselves for the sake of the patients and our community” Ross said. “Kapiolani has continued to generate significant revenue even during this pandemic — on the backs of the nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals.”

The management has attempted to diminish our voice and dismiss our concerns by making this all about money, but from the outset of our negotiations, we have said our concerns are much more than about fair compensation, and safety for ourselves and our patients,” he added.

Among the concerns shared by nurses include the reusing of N-95 masks.

The hospital CEO previously said nurses there are paid on average $124,000, or $168,480 with benefits, and the number of times N-95 masks are sanitized and reissued is down to three, which is well within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and manufacturer guidelines.

“Kapiolani has bargained in bad faith, refusing to listen and consider the nurses’ concerns,” the nurses insisted. Kapiolani’s latest contract offer was a 3-year deal with a 5% pay raise and $500 performance incentive payment.

In a statement Sunday, Marth Smith, CEO for the hospital, insisted the hospital’s team was bargaining in good faith and remains “committed to reaching an equitable and responsible labor agreement in a timely manner.”

“We will take all of the appropriate steps to ensure that patient care at Kapiolani will not be affected and access to quality care will continue without disruption for our patients and the community in the unfortunate event of a strike. We are scheduled to continue our discussions with HNA on Jan. 13.”

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