WILKES-BARRE — Working under the terms of a contract that expired months ago and with negotiations stalled, nurses at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital will conduct another one-day strike tomorrow morning.
The lingering question is when the nurses will be allowed to return to the their posts, after hospital management recently locked out strikers at two other area facilities also owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, a for-profit chain.
“The nurses will go on strike at 7 a.m. Thursday and will stay out until 7 a.m. Friday,” said Zack Rearick, communications director for Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the nurses’ union.
A rally has been planned for noon at the hospital’s main entrance, 575 N. River St.
“Obviously we hope the nurses will be allowed to return to work on Friday, but we are under no illusion that the hospital administration will allow that to happen,” he added.
Hospital spokeswoman Renita Fennick did not say whether the striking nurses will be allowed back on the job Friday.
“Teams of highly qualified, experienced, temporary replacement nurses will work to ensure uninterrupted care for patients,” Fennick said in an email when asked about plans for the strike and its aftermath. “All inpatient, outpatient and emergency services will be available and surgeries and diagnostic procedures will occur, as scheduled.”
About 440 nurses are expected to go out on strike, Rearick said.
The nurses’ contract expired Jan. 31, and the strike notice was submitted to management on May 22. The last negotiations, on May 22, failed to produce an agreement that addressed nurses’ concerns over staffing levels and quality of care, Rearick added.
Although the union said it has made a standing offer to negotiate at any time leading up to the strike, they say the hospital’s administration has not put forward additional dates.
When nurses at First Hospital in Kingston and Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton struck over similar issues last month, CHS responded by locking out the strikers for several days.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.