Healthcare Workers On Strike Amid A Myriad Of Shortages And Other Issues

F.J. Thomas

Sarasota, FL ( – Workers in the healthcare field are faced with more dilemmas than ever before, stretching them to the brink of their breaking point. Working with patients at all levels comes with its own set of stressors, but with added pressures from getting the vaccine to a worker shortage, the healthcare industry could be seeing a ripple effect as a result.

Several recent surveys of healthcare workers indicate somewhat of a reluctance to take the COVID-19 vaccine, citing reasons from personal choice, safety and efficacy of a vaccine still under trial, to distrust of governmental and health organizations. To up the ante, a recent case in Houston, Texas involving 178 hospital workers who refused the vaccine, could potentially set the tone for clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers nationwide in the wake of worker shortages.

Last month, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune, more than 900 nurses from Cook County Health that work at Stroger and Provident hospitals, and Cermak Health Services in addition to various clinics, went on strike. The strike caused the healthcare system to reschedule appointments and surgeries, and local area emergencies had to be re-routed as well. In the meantime, the health system is utilizing temporary staffing to address the shortages.

While the hospital states they are continually recruiting and have hired more than 800 clinical staff within the last year, the union for the nurses, National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, says the issue is staffing. The nurses claim that the healthcare system is under-staffed by “hundreds.” They claim that the lack of nurses is not only impacting patient care and outcomes, but creating burnout as well.

In addition to the staffing challenges, nurses have also raised concerns about preparation for future pandemics, including ppe supplies. However, according to the Chicago Tribune report, the hospital has projected $121 million budget deficit for next year, with $410 million budget deficit slated for this year.

In another report from the Erie Times-News, over 800 clinical workers employed by SEIU Healthcare PA in Pennsylvania have voted to go on strike. After a year that saw a 32 percent increase in nursing home deaths, the workers chose to go on strike citing not only COVID-19 concerns, but also understaffing in conjunction with low pay and industry regulations that need an overhaul.

In yet another case in Everett, Washington, nurses at Providence Medical Center facilities have voted to authorize a strike after the hospital administration attempted to cut pay and benefits after a difficult year. The nurses are represented by UFCW Local 21 union, which covers 1,700 nurses.

The past two years have already seen a rash of hospital closures due in part to financial woes. Paired with the potential of at least one-fourth of healthcare providers retiring early, and an already high level of burnout and mental health stresses in the industry, it will be interesting to see what impact these events will have on an industry already stretched to its limits.

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