Thousands of U.S. nurses walk out
Thousands of U.S. nurses walk out
Around 15,000 nurses across the U.S. state of Minnesota are on a three-day strike in what is believed to be the largest private sector nurses strike in U.S. history.

TEHRAN (Iran News) – Around 15,000 nurses across the U.S. state of Minnesota are on a three-day strike in what is believed to be the largest private sector nurses strike in U.S. history.

The protest puts further pressure on a health care system in America that is already facing growing calls from the public to undergo urgent reforms amid criticism over higher prices and insurance.

The nurses in Minnesota say they are burned out in the face of staff shortage, insisting that this is having a negative impact on the health and care of patients.

“I can’t give my patients the care they deserve,” said Chris Rubesch, the vice president of the Minnesota Nurses Association and a nurse. “Call lights go unanswered. Patients should only be waiting for a few seconds or minutes if they’ve soiled themselves or their oxygen came unplugged or they need to go to the bathroom, but that can take 10 minutes or more. Those are things that can’t wait.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association, the nurses union, held a press conference at one protest site where the health workers said they are striking to “save our profession”.

“Fifty-one percent of us could potentially leave the bedside as of next year,” Mary Turner, president of Minnesota Nurses Association, said. “That’s a health crisis”.

“We are not on strike for our wages. We’re fighting for the ability to have some say over our profession and the work life balance,” she added.

The strike is expected to last three days and has impacted more than a dozen hospitals. But if negotiations fail to reach an agreement, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association say they will likely vote again to authorize another strike.

The union says it has been negotiating for an agreement for months now, and that nurses have been working without a contract for weeks. “Hospital executives have already driven nurses away from the bedside by their refusal to solve the crises of staffing and retention in our hospitals,” the union’s negotiating team said in a statement, adding that nurses were “understaffed and overworked.”

Veteran U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders backed the protest and called for fairness, writing on social media “nurses are the backbone of our health care system.”

Strike protests have been occurring regularly in the U.S. over the past year, with employees said to be exhausted by working during the pandemic and now struggling with inflation.

Industrial action by nurses takes place as 100,000 railroad workers are preparing for strike action, 6,000 teachers are on strike in Seattle, and all sections of workers are seeking a way to fight against soaring inflation and increasing inequality.

The strike action by exhausted nurses reflects the mood of health care workers and a battered American health sector.

There are signs the nurses’ strike action, which has been months in the making, could influence health workers in other states. Earlier this month, four thousand nurses with the Michigan Nurses Association voted to authorize a strike over understaffing concerns.

This comes as 7,000 health care workers in Oregon have also called for a similar strike. Nurses in Wisconsin narrowly averted a strike this week. Health care workers in Hawaii and California are in the fourth week of what has become the longest running mental health care strike over staff shortages.

For a while now hospitals in the U.S. have been facing problems with inadequate staff. Higher demand on the medical sector and more safety risks for nurses during the pandemic have made the problem worse. The number of healthcare workers is nowhere near the pre-pandemic level, having gone down by 37,000 workers compared with February 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, demand for health care services shot up during the pandemic, with a backlog of patients who delayed their care and are now seeking treatment.

In Minnesota, the nurses union registered a 300 percent hike in nurses’ reporting unsafe staffing levels on their shifts since 2014.

A Minnesota Department of Health survey found 19 percent of nurses in the state said last year they plan to leave the profession in five years.

Nurses are quitting and retiring early in large numbers following the covid pandemic which was the deadliest in the U.S. in terms of deaths. But the nurses, who faced death during the pandemic, are leaving now because of increased workloads caused by short staffing and extremely busy work hours.

Nurses argue this is having a disastrous effect on patients who face high costs for treatment, something they are struggling to afford and is believed to be the primary reason Americans do not get the health care they need.

Polls show the cost of treatment is having a burden on families and factor into decisions about insurance coverage and care seeking. Health care costs also rank as a top financial worry.

About half of U.S. adults say they have difficulty affording health care costs while about four in ten U.S. adults say they have delayed or gone without medical care in the last year due to the price.

A substantial number of adults has reported difficulty paying for various aspects of health care.

The cost of health care has also been found to often prevent people from getting needed care or filling prescriptions. About a quarter of adults say they or their family members have not filled a prescription, cut pills in half, or skipped doses of medicine in the last year because of the cost, with larger shares of those in households with lower incomes, Black and Hispanic adults.

High health care costs disproportionately affect uninsured adults, Black and Hispanic adults, and those with lower incomes. A larger percentage of American adults in each of these groups report difficulty affording various types of care and delaying or forgoing medical care due to the cost.

Even those who are covered by health insurance are not immune to the burden of health care costs. About one-third of insured adults worry about affording their monthly health insurance premium, and 44 percent worry about affording their deductible before health insurance kicks in.

Healthcare debt is also a burden for a large number of Americans. About four in ten adults report having debt due to medical or dental bills including debts owed to credit cards, collections agencies, family and friends, banks, and other lenders to pay for their health care costs, with disproportionate shares of Black and Hispanic adults, women, parents, those with low incomes, and uninsured adults saying they have health care debt.

Affording gas and transportation costs is now a top worry for Americans followed by unexpected medical bills. While the worry over gasoline and transportation costs has risen markedly since 2020, significant numbers of adults still say they are worried about affording medical costs such as unexpected bills, deductibles, and long-term care services for themselves or a family member.

While the U.S. spends $4 trillion on healthcare each year, many Americans still lack access to good, affordable care which is one of the, if not the most expensive in the world and the suffering of the country’s medical workers is set to make matters worse.

  • source : Tehrantimes