About 1,500 nurses from Washington Hospital Center began striking yesterday for better working conditions after talks between the D.C. Nurses Association and the hospital's management ended in a stalemate late Tuesday night.
Scores of striking nurses converged at the entrance to the hospital early yesterday chanting, "Patients beware, management is giving care."
Meanwhile, the hospital halls were nearly deserted, with random carts unattended, brooms fallen and corridors unwatched except by cameras and temporary nurses in clean blue uniforms not knowing how to get in and out of the hospital.
But, there were no reported problems, according to Dr. James Howard, medical director at Washington Hospital Center. And, the 500 seemingly disoriented and anxious replacement nurses will remain until an agreement is reached, Dr. Howard said.
The nurses said they were prepared for a prolonged strike.
"We will be back here tomorrow, and we'll be back as long as it takes," said Evelyn Sommers, executive director of the D.C. Nurses Association.
The nurses are asking for a 22 percent to 28 percent raise, an end to mandatory overtime, lower patient-to-nurse ratios and representation on hospital committees regarding patient care.
"Clearly when nurses are overly tired, they are more apt to make mistakes," explained Ms. Sommers.
Hospital officials earlier offered the nurses a plan for no more than two overtime shifts per nurse every six weeks, which the nurses said was not enough.
The hospital has offered the nurses a 16.5 percent raise over three years - a pay and benefits packages averaging about $70,000 per nurse - calling it a "final offer."
But the nurses said the offer was not enough. …