St. Charles medical tech strike heads into 2nd full week; negotiations fail

St. Charles and the union representing 150 striking medical techs could not come to an agreement Wednesday following all-day negotiations with a federal mediator.

The strike now moves into its second full week.

Wednesday’s session was the first meeting between the hospital and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals’ union since December 3rd.

“We have done everything we can to settle this contract and end this strike, but St. Charles leadership is dangerously out of touch with the people taking care of our community,” said Sam Potter, an organizer with OFNHP. “Every day that they prolong this strike, they are making a conscious decision to put our families, our community, in danger rather than pay their employees fair wages.”

Aaron Adams, president of St. Charles in Bend, said in a statement the presence of a mediator was very helpful and “we are hopeful we can get back to the table soon for further discussion.”

In a statement, the hospital said it shared with the OFNHP team that it is eager to get back to the table and resolve the situation, but continues to find it challenging to both bargain and run the hospital during a strike.

“For this reason, St. Charles has asked the union if its members would be willing to return to work so the hospital can create an environment in which its team could better focus on bargaining,” the statement said.

The union declined.

“No one wins in a strike – not the health system, not our caregivers, not our patients, not our community,” Adams said. “We want the strike to end so we can get back to the table, resolve the contract and focus all of our energy on the most important work of all – caring for our patients.”

The strike started on March 4th as the two sides failed to come to an agreement on a first contract.

First-year salary numbers appear to be approved, but the hospital won’t budge on a request from the union for step-increases guaranteeing pay raises each subsequent year of the contract.

St. Charles has contracted with replacement workers to fill in for the striking radiologists, therapists, ultrasound techs and others. The hospital has said the workers were carefully vetted and are highly qualified.

But nurses inside the hospital say the replacements aren’t up to speed and lack some of the skills of the workers on strike.

Some nurses have brought into question patient safety.

“There are only two technicians that even know how to use the equipment I was going to use for the case. And frankly, I didn’t feel safe with a bunch of temps coming in,” said Dr. Priscilla Pang, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the hospital. “It’s frustrating that, from a physician’s side of things, we are having to take that into account when we’re thinking about the safety of our patients,”

The union has said they will continue the strike for as long as necessary and there are currently no new negotiation dates set.

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