Hundreds of nurses are walking a picket line outside the largest hospital in the Upper Peninsula.
Members of the Michigan Nurses Association launched a 48-hour strike against U.P. Health System Marquette on Thursday. The nurses have been working without a contract since May.
Scott Balko is the president of the local nurses’ union. He says staffing issues have become an increasing problem since an out-of-state hospital company acquired three local hospitals in the U.P. in past few years.
“When nurses are on the street, there’s something wrong on the inside,” says Balko, who says hospital officials have made bargaining talks difficult. “It really feels like we’re hitting a brick wall this time. Before it felt more like a collaborative effort at the table to get a deal made. I haven’t felt it since day one with these people.”
Duke Lifepoint made a deal to acquire Marquette General in 2012. The Tennessee-based hospital chain operated medical facilities in 22 states.
Hospital officials issued a statement after the nurses started their 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."
The unionized nurses are set to return to work Saturday.