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MercyOne nurses hold public meeting with contract bargaining continuing at standstill

MercyOne nurses hold public meeting with contract bargaining continuing at standstill

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MercyOne nurses event

A rally held by MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center nurses and their union, the UFCW Local 222, drew dozens of people to a conference room at the downtown Holiday Inn Thursday night. 

SIOUX CITY -- More than a month after contract negotiations between the MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center nurses' union and hospital management stalled, the nurses and their union held a public meeting Thursday night. 

Dozens of attendees, several left standing for lack of space, packed into a conference room at the downtown Holiday Inn to hear the nurses describe the ongoing, public feud with MercyOne management over issues like staffing levels and wages. 

After some 16 bargaining sessions, contract negotiations ended by Oct. 8 and have yet to resume. The nurses, represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 222, rejected management's proposal by a 99 percent vote; management reportedly told the nurses "they are not making any money and cannot meet the Nurses demands," according to a post on the nurses' group Facebook page. 

[More health news: UnityPoint Health, Sanford call off merger.]

Hospital management tacitly acknowledged financial hardships in a written statement in October, saying "MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center, like other hospitals and health care systems nationally and in Iowa, has been faced with new financial demands given today’s challenging health care environment." 

The subject of a strike came up only a few times during Thursday night's meeting, but the nurses made it clear that, regrettable though a strike may be, it's still on the table. 

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Samaritan Hospital
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Hospital at 28th and Jennings streets
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St. Joseph Hospital
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St. Joseph's
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St. John's Hospital

"We think Mercy is literally trying to force us to go on strike. We don't want to strike, nobody wins in a strike. Especially not the patients that we love and care for," said Doug Kelly, an ICU nurse at the hospital. "But, if that's what they want, we are here to take on this fight, and we are not backing down."

Other nurses at the event described missing important family events, and feeling compelled to leave MercyOne for other facilities, due to dire short-staffing and mandatory extra shifts. 

"It pains me to say that I'm leaving. I can no longer work where my license is continuously at risk, and I can't continue to work where I feel like my patients' safety is not top priority," said Robin Jackson, an ICU nurse of five years who recently decided to leave MercyOne. 

"I think I worked 13 straight weekends in a row. During those 13 weeks, I had to reschedule my youngest child's birthday party three times. And I was told that I didn't have the choice and I didn't have the right to have those weekends off," said Meghan Hageman, a MercyOne nurse of 13 years. Hageman recently switched to "as-needed" (also known as PRN) status, meaning she will only work 16 hours a month. 

Some politicians showed up or had surrogates at the event -- Iowa Rep. Chris Hall and Sioux City Councilwoman Rhonda Capron were there, while Sen. Cory Booker, a Democratic presidential candidate, sent a stand-in. A nurse read a prepared statement from J.D. Scholten, a Democratic candidate for Iowa's Fourth District congressional seat

"I just think it's so disgusting. I go into some of these nursing homes, and I see what the nurses and the CNAs go through. You can't have two CNAs and a nurse taking care of 20 people," said Capron, a stalwart supporter of the nurses. (Capron also owns a home care business for senior citizens.) 

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Bootleggers
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Rebos
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Pinky's Ice Cream & Hot Dogs
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Sioux City Pita Pit
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A Sanford executive laid blame with UnityPoint, saying in a statement, "we are disappointed that the UnityPoint Health board failed to embrace the vision." The merged company would have seen as much as $11 billion in operating revenue.

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