SEATTLE — Starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, nurses and caregivers at Swedish Edmonds are expected to leave their posts and form a picket line, as fill-in health care workers take over for the duration of a three-day strike.
The Edmonds employees are part of nearly 8,000 workers expected to strike this week across each Swedish campus. The health care provider is spending at least $11 million on thousands of replacement workers for the strike, which ends Friday at 7:30 a.m, CEO Guy Hudson said.
Some non-emergency procedures and classes will be delayed during the strike, but Swedish will not compromise on safe patient care, Hudson said.
Additionally, emergency rooms in Ballard and Redmond will close during the strike, as will an ambulatory care center in Mill Creek.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members filed a strike notice earlier this month, amid stalled contract negotiations and calls for increased staffing.
“Ever since corporate giant Providence took over Swedish, health care workers have seen management prioritize profits and executive pay over patients’ needs, causing severe care problems, under-staffing and turnover,” the union said in a news release.
Hudson said the union’s decision to strike is unfortunate. The health care provider’s last offer was a great one, he said.
“Our goal was never a strike,” said Jayne Weaver, a case manager at Swedish Edmonds. “Our younger caseworkers and social workers are burnt out. This is a retention issue. They can talk money all they want, I think we’ve made it very clear.”
The fill-in caregivers have been in Seattle for a few days, said Elizabeth Wako, chief medical officer for Swedish’s First Hill campus. While here, they’ve undergone training on computer systems and policies.
“We don’t anticipate any issues,” Wako said.
Along with replacement workers, Swedish is also bringing extra security to its hospitals during the strike.
The union says the guards are a scare tactic for the picketing employees. Hudson said they’re simply a precaution.
“I’m not anticipating any problems,” he said. “I have a lot of faith and trust in our represented caregivers.”
Contract negotiations will continue after the strike, Swedish spokesperson Tiffany Moss said.
Swedish’s nurses and caregivers, represented by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, authorized the strike in November. They joined about 5,000 employees at other Providence affiliates who authorized walkouts. In early January, union members threatened to deliver a strike notice, but an all-nighter with a federal mediator kept both sides at the table for a weeklong bargaining session.
During that week, two unions representing the other Providence-affiliated employees reached deals with the health care provider.