UPDATE: Nurses, hospital official talk about strike

UPDATE — Thursday, October 5th, 2017 5:15 p.m. ET

“We will never stop bargaining. We are determined to bargain until we drop or until Duke LifePoint mans up and does what they’re supposed to do for our patients, what they need to do for our patients and our community,” said Janie Klamerus, RN and bargaining team member.

Nurses at UP Health System – Marquette wore red, walked, and chanted in solidarity Thursday morning outside of the hospital. And they’ll do it for the next two days as part of their strike.

Nurses say unsafe staffing levels at the hospital have led to patient safety issues.

“We never want to not work,” said Gregory Kerwin, an RN at UP Health System – Marquette. “You go into nursing because you want to go into nursing; there’s not a whole lot of glory in it. To walk away from it is an extraordinary difficult thing to do.”

“We want to get the word out to the community. We want to let them know that we are very serious about our jobs, about our patients and about their safety,” said Klamerus.

In addition to the hundreds of nurses, union workers who are building the new hospital have stopped working for the next two days to support them. And speaking of support, nurses from far away as Ann Arbor drove to Marquette to lend theirs.

“We support our nurses and we see an amazing community here with everyone supporting everybody around this strike,” said Katie Oppenheim, an RN at the University of Michigan. “I am embarrassed to say in a sense that I went to Duke University and I’m sad to see their name is associated with such a place that really only cares about profits not the patients.”

“When you look at data, the recovery time of patients and re-hospitalization of patients, the driving force is typically inadequate staffing levels,” said Rich Rossway, republican nominee for the 109th district seat race. “Let’s get the proper staffing levels we need to take care of our patients.”

As far as the patients go, UPHS spokesperson Victor Harrington tells ABC 10 that the hospital is 100% staffed and operational.

“We have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure uninterrupted delivery of high quality care to our patients,” said Harrington. “We’ve got patients here for appointments, here for procedures. We want to share with the community that our doors are indeed open and that you can count on receiving high quality care that you always would expect.”

Out of caution, the hospital has limited entry points at the hospital to the main entrance on College Avenue and through the Skywalk, located on third floor of the parking garage. And the emergency department remains open 24/7.

“We remain ready to return to the bargaining table and work to develop a new contract that meets the needs of our nurses, our hospital, and our community,” said Harrington.

“You go in there, you sit and you bargain with most of the time their lawyer; you walk out with a feeling of being stonewalled and it’s very frustrating,” said Klamerus. “But we’re going to win,” she added.

MARQUETTE — At 6:59 a.m. this morning, nurses and many supporters began their strike at UP Health System – Marquette.

The nurses are striking because they say there are unsafe staffing levels at the hospital, which has led to patient safety issues. The strike is scheduled to last 48 hours until 6:59 a.m. Saturday.

“UP nurses are prepared to stand in solidarity in our fight for safe staffing. Patients in Marquette and across the Upper Peninsula deserve a hospital that is staffing safely by dedicated RNs,” said Scott Balko, RN and President of the UPHS Marquette RN Staff Council.

UP Health System – Marquette did release a statement last night about the nurses strike:

“While we had hoped to avoid a strike, we have been preparing for this possibility and have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure that there is absolutely no interruption in care for our patients and community members. Right now, and always, our focus is on delivering high-quality care to our community. We will be fully-staffed with highly-qualified temporary nurses for the duration of the strike and assure the community that our commitment to patient care will be unchanged.

We consider it a privilege to serve the healthcare needs of the Upper Peninsula, and we stand ready to continue our negotiations with the Michigan Nurses Association so that we can reach a new contract that meets the needs of our nurses, hospital and community.”

Nurses are planning to take shifts picketing around the hospital. ABC 10 has learned local labor unions working to build the new hospital on Baraga Avenue have shutdown the work site for the next two days in support of the nurses.

Stay with ABC 10 and ABC10up.com for the latest information about the strike.