Nurses strike over H1N1 scrubbed

A strike that would have included nurses from three local hospitals concerned about safety issues around pandemic H1N1 has been canceled, state nurses union officials said Tuesday.

Nurses from Catholic Healthcare West hospitals, which include Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo and Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria, were planning to strike Thursday to protest what they said was a lack of preparedness for the swine flu.

Shum Preston, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, said the federal mediator handling negotiations between the hospital chain and the union barred any communication with the media beginning Tuesday.

Up to 16,000 registered nurses from 39 facilities in California and Nevada were expected to participate in the one-day strike.

Among the three local hospitals, there are 663 nurses represented by the California Nurses Association. French Hospital spokeswoman Megan Maloney said it was difficult to anticipate how many nurses would have participated in the strike locally.

Nurses planned the walkout over the failure of hospital chains to assure adequate safety precautions for patients, their families, nurses and other health care employees in the wake of swine flu, according to a statement from the California Nurses Association.

Nurses at those hospitals said many facilities do a poor job of isolating patients with swine flu symptoms, according to the statement.

Every hospital in the county and Marian has recently begun implementing stricter visitor policies because of heightened concerns over the spread of swine flu.

Chief among the changes is enforcement of a minimum visitor age requirement of 16 and a policy capping the number of visitors to two at a time.