Nurses at Ascension St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet have been working without a contract since July. Pat Meade says the staff is stretched thin and they keep losing nurses.
Meade is a recovery room nurse with over three and a half decades experience. She is on the St. Joseph Nurses Association Executive Board and the Bargaining Committee. Currently there are 500 nurses working at the hospital down from 850, five years ago. They have lost 350 nurses.
According to spokesman with Illinois Nurses, John Fitzgerald, “Ascension has closed multiple units at the hospital, without required notice to the state Hospital Review Board. Dozens of complaints have been filed with IDPH about safety and short staffing and related legal violations. IDPH has demanded compliance plans from the hospital, but they are still out of compliance, and in violation of state law around safe hospital staffing.”
It has been a year since nurses in the ICU and ER refused to accept incredibly dangerous staffing assignments that would have harmed patients. Ascension issued those 10 nurses Final Warnings.
Staffing at the hospital has continued to deteriorate since then, and the collapse has accelerated as of late. Pay checks are still messed up, and pay is still missing. A federal wage theft lawsuit is still pending.
St. Joe’s nurses have been bargaining since May. Ascension has not increased their wage proposal in 3 months, and has offered nothing in the way of staffing, except to assign nurses outside of their specialty areas. A federal mediator was called in to steer negotiations in August.
Nurses went on strike in August. Since then they have received almost no movement, on staffing or wages. The hospital continues to lose staff. Nurses are leaving to make $10-15 an hour more.
According to Fitzgerald, “The staffing crisis is accelerating – as an example on Sunday night, 8 units were 2 nurses short each. Nurses wouldn’t refuse admissions though, because of how that would impact their coworkers in the ER, and the dangers that would pose to those patients.”
WJOL has reached out to Ascension for comment.