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First day of hospital strike a raucous and crowded day of defiance

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With the union and Lifespan unable to come to an agreement for a new contract, nurses and other medical professionals at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital went on strike at 3pm as promised. Lifespan kicked most of the workers out 90 minutes earlier than that, with one nurse telling me that she was told to “clean out your locker” by administrators as she left.

“This is a difficult day for all of us. Every member who walks the picket line understands what’s at stake for themselves, their families and their patients. Lifespan is a broken system where wealthy executives make millions and front line caregivers are ordered to do more with less, and until that changes, patient care will continue to be adversely impacted,” said Frank Sims, RN, UNAP Local 5098 President. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support we have received over the last several days from current and former patients, as well as the public at large. Please continue to stand with us as we fight a fair and competitive contract.”

Perhaps thousands of nurses, hospital workers and supporters walked the picket line, the largest I’ve ever been at, easily wrapping around three corners of the hospital campus, double thick on the sidewalk and on both sides of Dudley Street. Elected officials and candidates for office were on hand to sshow their support.

The strike will last four days, the three days voted on by UNAP members plus one additional day Lifespan is paying for. While the strike is on, Rhode Island Hospital has bussed in replacement workers, scabs, to perform the work of those on strike. There was also plenty of additional private security on hand.

Rhode Island Hospital will not be able to offer a full range of services during the strike, despite Lifespan busing in replacement workers. Here is an overview of adjustments in services being provided:

  • Although Rhode Island Hospital’s Emergency Department will continue to accept all walk-ins, EMS will only be transporting trauma, burn, cardiac and respiratory arrest, and pediatric cases to Rhode Island Hospital’s and Hasbro Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Departments. EMS will transport other patients to other hospitals’ emergency departments. The Rhode Island Department of Health will monitor patient volumes at other facilities and revisit this policy during each day of the work stoppage.
  • During the work stoppage, EMS will bring stroke patients to the nearest of Rhode Island’s six Primary Stroke Centers. Ordinarily, severe stroke cases are transported to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Rhode Island Hospital (provided that EMS could transport the patient to Rhode Island Hospital within 30 minutes).
  • The hospital has rescheduled all elective services and all non-urgent diagnostic testing for the duration of the work stoppage.

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Here’s some video that gives a flavor of the event, and dozens of pictures:

Several politicians and candidates for political office attended the picket, and I’m sure I didn’t see all of them:


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