WAILUKU, Hawaii (KHON2) — It’s been a week since nearly 500 healthcare workers went on strike at Maui Health demanding better pay. A hospital nurse said she was starting to feel the effects, saying room cleaning, rubbish collection and clean sheets were in short supply.
Registered nurse Jennifer Alakai works the night shift in the intensive care unit at Maui Memorial Medical Center; she said the weeklong strike by the United Public Workers was taking its toll.
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Alakai and other nurses have begun taking on additional responsibilities, such as taking out trash from patient rooms, changing linens and making sure they are stocked with supplies for the night shift.
“You know, the saying that you don’t know what you got until it’s gone,” Alakai said. “Now we’re running to the next room to break it down, get it ready to be cleaned up, you know.”
She said it began to strain her day-to-day work despite claims from the Maui Health System that the hospital was receiving help from emergency workers.
Members of the United Public Workers union voted to strike after eight months of negotiations with the hospital system. Union state chairman Kalani Werner did not go into detail about what members are asking for and what the employer is offering, but said better pay and maintaining staffing levels were among the main problems.
Werner said the union and Maui Health are expected to continue negotiations on Monday, March 6.
Werner said: “They were happy to finally hear that we were getting back to the table. They really wanted to know if they could come back sooner.
Alakai said she supports her colleagues at UPW as they have all come together to confront COVID and said she will not turn her back on them now.
Alakai said, “I express it to them by picketing with them. I express this to them by making sure that we can maintain it for as long as we can in the hospital.
In a statement, Maui Health System said:
“We are working closely and daily with nursing leaders and department heads to coordinate and streamline all ancillary services, including housekeeping, to ensure they continue as planned. Additionally, our in-house housekeeping request line is available 24/7 for staff to communicate any urgent or special housekeeping needs. As a reminder, if emergency medical care is needed, emergency services are available 24/7 to provide care. Additionally, all entrances to hospitals and facilities remain open and accessible for employees and providers, patients and visitors. Maui Health’s emergency plan includes deploying personnel to areas affected by strikers. This includes clinical and non-clinical staff, provided from multiple sources, with additional help arriving this week. »
Maui Health System
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Negotiations between the union and the UPW are due to resume on March 6.