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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:07 p.m., Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Nurses' strike in ninth day; no talks scheduled

By Mike Gordon
and Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writers

Strikes at three Honolulu hospitals entered their ninth day today with no talks scheduled and both sides at each hospital far apart.

Meanwhile, a weekend incident outside the emergency room of The Queen's Medical Center underscores the frustration on both sides of the labor dispute.

The Hawai'i Nurses Association is "incensed" that a private security guard chastised three nurses for trespassing after they put down their picket signs to help a sick woman who had been unable to alert emergency room personnel shortly after midnight Sunday, said Sue Scheider, executive director of the association.

Queen's spokeswoman Lynn Kenton said the security guard was doing his job. She said emergency room personnel responded in a reasonable time and the entire incident took no more than two minutes. She said security guards wrote a report but no charges would be filed.

"We thank the striking nurses for their assistance but part of the procedure during this period is to record the names of picketers who come on campus," Kenton said.

When they are on strike, they are not supposed to come onto Queen's property, she said.

Nurses at Queen's and St. Francis and Kuakini medical centers began striking last week. Nearly 1,400 nurses are walking picket lines.

Nurses have made it clear that they will return to negotiations whenever they are asked, Scheider said.

Hospital officials have said they put their "best and final" offers on the bargaining table before the strike began.

The nurses are negotiating separately with each hospital and the issues vary at each one, Scheider said.

Kara Terada was one of the three Queen's crisis nurses involved in the emergency room incident. They watched as a man drove up, got out of his car and struggled to help an ailing woman walk toward the entrance.

Because the nurses thought no one could see the pair, they shouted to nearby security guards to help, Terada said. When no one responded to repeated requests for help, the nurses crossed the picket line, Terada said.

"We said, you know what, screw this and the three of us crossed the line," she said. "And then someone finally brought a wheelchair. Then we went back to the line."

Another security guard then told the nurses that they were trespassing and took their names. Terada, a nurse at Queen's since 1997, found it insulting.

"It is our instinct to help somebody," she said. "There shouldn't be any lines when you are going to help somebody. It is just ridiculous."

No one has been to the bargaining table at any of the three hospitals in a week.

With both sides at each hospital still far apart on issues including wages, paid time off, staffing levels and retirement benefits nurses and management say they each remained confident in their positions.

"Everybody is still motivated. Everybody is still positive and focused. We are keeping each other going," said Kerry Lineham, one of the 200 striking nurses at Kuakini.

Meanwhile, working staff members and some replacement nurses have banded together to keep patient services at Kuakini at a high level, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"We're maintaining a can-do attitude," said spokeswoman Donda Spiker. "Our remaining staff is taking a team approach that has allowed us to maintain the strengths of our entire center."

At St. Francis, officials continue to bring in 12 replacement nurses to head off a building crisis in patient care.

The hospital, where 340 nurses walked off the job Dec. 2, has sought unsuccessfully in the courts and in talks with the nurses' association to have some strikers return to help with patient care in units that include critical care, transplants and out-patient dialysis.

Two replacement nurses are now working with dialysis patients, said hospital spokeswoman Maggie Jarrett. The other 10 nurses are expected by the end of the week.