Kapiolani Medical Center nurses picket over COVID-19 safety concerns, contract issues

Citing safety concerns, Kapiolani Medical Center nurses picket over contract issues

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some of the more than 700 nurses who work at the Kapiolani Medical Center are picketing Wednesday over the status of their contracts, which expired Monday.

A spokesperson for the nurses, who are members of the Hawaii Nurses Association union, say concerns about working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic have still not been addressed after eight weeks of negotiations with hospital management.

The nurses allege that some of the hospital’s protocols are putting workers at risk.

“We had some proposals about the COVID pandemic and management refused to work with the nurses on it,” said Paulette Vasu, a registered nurse at Kapiolani Medical Center.

“Also, we worry about safe staffing, but you see all the nurses out here. It’s their day off, they brought their families, they brought their friends, and the support we’re getting from other unions and the community has been awesome.”

Vasu said the nurses were also pushing for a special COVID-19 task force, but the hospital has been unwilling to do so.

“That would entail the nurses and management working together to ensure that the bedside nurse has everything she needs to take care of the patients and herself, to protect herself,” Vasu said.

But Martha Smith, CEO of Kapiolani Medical Center, said that is simply untrue.

“As a matter of fact, last week, we gave a proposal to the union, a letter that stated we would like to put together a committee that addresses that request of theirs to work together with a nursing and management team to address the PPE concerns,” she said.

Earlier, Smith said the allegations were a “string of mistruths and disrespectful negotiating tactics.”

“We would like to settle this as much as our nurses want to settle this,” she said. “It is important because we have to manage our cost of care and we’re in this for the long-term, for a sustainable health care system here in the state of Hawaii.”

This story will be updated.

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