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Nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center announce one-day strike for Dec. 6

A crowd of people holding National Nurses United signs in support of Ascension Seton nurses
Michael Minasi
Nurses at Austin’s Ascension Seton Medical Center last went on strike in June.

Nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center will hold a daylong strike on Dec. 6 because of what they say are ongoing issues with equipment and staffing.

National Nurses United (NNU) formed a union at Ascension Seton representing several hundred nurses in September 2022. The union began negotiating its first contract with the hospital just over a year ago.

In that time, nurses have held a number of pickets and demonstrations near the hospital, as well as an initial one-day strike in June. Nurses who participated were barred from returning to work for an additional three days, which hospital representatives said was the length of the contract required to secure temporary nurses to work during the strike.

In a statement, the union said it hoped the Dec. 6 strike would call attention to an ongoing shortage of equipment and supplies, including IV pumps, hospital gowns, blankets and thermometers. Nurses also said there are regular issues with hospital-issued phones used for communication during shifts.

“Just about every shift, I’m running around trying to find spare, clean blankets to swaddle our newborns and thermometers to make sure our patients aren’t running a fever,” Kristine Kittelson, an RN in the postpartum unit at the hospital, said in the statement. “It’s unbelievable that Ascension management, with its deep resources, is dragging its feet on basic equipment and supplies.”

Additionally, the union is asking Ascension Seton to address issues with short staffing and nurse retention. The union said inexperienced nurses in the hospital’s labor and delivery unit are being pushed to take on leadership roles typically entrusted to more tenured nurses.

In a statement, representatives for Ascension Seton said the hospital was prepared to remain open while nurses strike and that there would be no disruption to patient care.

"We are disappointed National Nurses United has made the decision to proceed with a strike, once again creating unnecessary uncertainty for our associates and their families, and concern for our patients and their loved ones," representatives said. While they said they acknowledge the right for nurses to participate in the strike, they "believe that differences are best resolved respectfully at the bargaining table, and continue to focus on our upcoming scheduled bargaining sessions."

The Austin hospital announced on Tuesday that it will once again temporarily replace the striking nurses using a staffing agency starting Dec. 6 and ending after Dec. 9 because of the four-day minimum contract with the temporary employees.

Nurses at two Ascension-owned hospitals in Wichita, Kansas, will also strike on Dec. 6. Between Austin and Wichita, NNU said, around 2,000 nurses will participate in strikes that day.

Olivia Aldridge is KUT's health care reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @ojaldridge.
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