PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Hospital has resumed accepting transfer patients and will reschedule some elective procedures for Thursday as union nurses remain outside on the picket line, with fill-in staff inside.
About 2,400 nurses, techs and therapists have been on the picket line since the strike began on Monday at 3 p.m. Nurses are holding signs, railing against parent company Lifespan and chanting outside the hospital, as the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) Local 5098 remains in a contract stalemate with the hospital.
Thursday night, nurses flashed lights from the sidewalks below to participate in “Good Night Lights,” an evening ritual for their patients inside at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, whom they haven’t seen in three days.
Nurses participating in the nightly ritual “good night lights” for their Hasbro Children’s Hospital patients inside as they strike out on the sidewalk pic.twitter.com/OJfwbcFAH2— Steph Machado (@StephMachado) July 26, 2018
Inside the hospital, hundreds of replacement nurses remain taking care of patients in the nurses’ absence. At last count, a spokesperson said there were currently 410 inpatients and the hospital could accept up to 525 patients with the lower-than-normal staff numbers.
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The nurses plan to return to work Friday. The union initially offered to come back Thursday, but was told by RI Hospital that the replacement nurses were guaranteed four days of work in their contract.
“We’re willing to go back to work,” Union Executive Vice President Norman Farias said. “We wanted a three day strike, we wanted to send a message to the hospital. Obviously, anything more than that is going to be very disruptive for the hospital.”
He said nurses were encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits for the 4th day of missed work. It’s unclear if they will be eligible, as a spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Training said they would need to review the claims once they come in.
Farias is one of the nurses on the negotiating team that will eventually return to the table with Lifespan after the strike is over.
Rhode Island Hospital President Margaret Van Bree said Tuesday she expects there to be a “cooling off period” after the nurses return to work before the negotiations begin.
“We think it was a very competitive package and we’re anxious to get back into discussions,” she said Tuesday.
Union leadership has declined to go into specifics about their demands, but have said they want equitable wage increases and competitive salaries. Nurses have also told Eyewitness News all week that they lack enough basic supplies like pillows, IV pumps and monitors.
Van Bree said the issue of resources did not come up in contract negotiations.
“Certainly if there’s a problem with supplies, we want to know about it,” she said.
“We have been telling management for a long, long time,” Farias said.