SANTA ROSA (KCBS) – Hundreds of nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital are not seeing patients on Tuesday, as they have decided to go on strike, the first such impasse in over two decades.

The nurses were carrying picket signs on Tuesday, part of a dispute between the union and company that runs Sonoma County’s only trauma center.

Sue Gadbois, president of the Santa Rosa-based Staff Nurses Association, said the nurses’ contract expired at the end of September and negotiators were dissatisfied with discussions at the bargaining table.

KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:

“The hospital, even though they have a $38 million operating margin (profit) for the fiscal year ending June 30, want to make cuts in nurses’ wages and benefits,” said Gadbois.

Debra Miller, the vice president of human resources for St. Joseph Health Sonoma County, said the hospital did increase its operating margin, but that money is earmarked for essential hospital needs.

“That is money that is required to keep our facility up and running,” said Miller. “And we have a very significant project going on as we’re expanding our emergency room.”

The expansion project will cost $15 million to complete.

Miller said that replacement nurses have been hired as the strike is scheduled to run through Thursday morning.

The main sticking point – wages. St. Joseph’s has rejected the nurses’ request for a 10 percent pay increase, instead countering with a 2 percent increase.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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