Aug 30, 2004
Over five hundred nurses have been on strike since August 9 at Mt. Clemens General Hospital outside Detroit. The nurses are striking over shortstaffing by the hospital, which is overworking them and endangering patients' health. They are also fighting for better health care benefits for part-time nurses, who make up the big majority of the nursing staff.
The hospital has been refusing to negotiate staffing levels, trying instead to pretend the issue is wages, offering two offers that contained raises. The nurses rejected both.
As is usual when health care workers strike, the hospital has denounced the nurses for endangering the patients. What a crock! The main thing endangering the patients' well-being is inadequate staffing levels. And that's the hospital's responsibility.
A hospital which put patient care first would not be pulling nurses from one area to work in areas that they are not used to, which Mt. Clemens does all the time. It would not pull nurses to work in intensive care or the emergency room without additional training. As one nurse said, "If it were true that we are all interchangeable, then all doctors would be the same. You could have a cardiologist setting your broken leg."
Profits in health care are increasing steadily. The hospitals cry broke when it comes to staffing and wages, while they funnel huge profits to themselves, the drug and medical supply corporations, the insurance companies and everyone else that touches health care.
The nurses at Mt. Clemens are right to fight against this situation. And we all have every reason to support them – first out of worker solidarity, but also because when service workers are attacked, the people they serve suffer as well.