Two hospitals may fly in nurses
By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer
Kaiser and Kapiolani hospitals said yesterday that they will each fly in about 200 nurses in time to keep operations running as usual if their own nurses go on strike Monday.
But St. Francis Hospital in Liliha said it can't afford the "flying nurses" and would have to cut back some services and may lay off some other employees.
Richard Meiers, president of the hospitals' Hawaii Healthcare Association, said two other hospitals in negotiations with the Hawaii Nurses Association were making contingency plans to continue as many services as possible in the event of a strike.
The Hawaii Nurses Association represents about 2,500 nurses negotiating with St. Francis, Kuakini, Kaiser, Kapiolani and The Queen's hospitals. The nurses are set to strike at four hospitals Monday morning, and at Queen's on Tuesday, if contracts can't be reached.
Kapiolani nurses yesterday rejected what that hospital called its final offer.
The last time nurses moved toward a strike in Hawai'i was nearly 12 years ago, but a last-minute agreement averted a walkout.
At a news conference yesterday, officials of Kapiolani, St. Francis and Kaiser said some of their nurses may continue to work to care for patients rather than honor the threatened strikes.
Dr. Virginia Pressler, Kapiolani vice president, said the hospital's highest priority is to maintain full services not available elsewhere in the state for specialty care and high-risk patients, often infants born prematurely or with life-threatening conditions.
Some classeswill be canceled, and volunteer workers will not be asked to cross picket lines, she said.
Chris Pablo, spokesman for Kaiser, said that there will be no elective surgeries on Saturday or Sunday and that the hospital will decide tomorrow if it is going to cancel elective surgeries scheduled for next week.
Kaiser clinics will remain in operation, although some specialized services may be delayed until "contingency nurses" become available, he said.
St. Francis spokeswoman Maggie Jarrett said the medical center on Liliha Street stopped admitting patients Tuesday night and is asking physicians to discharge all who can be released safely before Monday.
All in-patient surgeries at St. Francis have been canceled, outpatient surgeries will be suspended Saturday if there is no settlement, and emergency surgeries will be done for the most critical cases first and to the extent that staffing allows.
Continued availability of outpatient services at St. Francis will be based on staffing, Jarrett said.
Dialysis treatments for kidney-failure patients will be shortened and consolidated in fewer facilities, Jarrett said. Patients in two wings at the hospital will be moved into one wing. Ambulances will be directed not to bring patients to St. Francis' emergency room.
Physicians have already begun shifting some patients to St. Francis' other medical center in 'Ewa Beach where nurses are covered by a different contract, according to Jarrett.
Reach Walter Wright at email@example.com or 525-8054.