Nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis vote to strike

By The Active Age | June 2, 2023

Nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis hospital in Wichita have authorized a strike in a vote held this week, although a date for the action has not been set, their union said Thursday. In a news release, the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) said the strike vote concluded May 31 and that nurses voted 93% in favor of a strike.

 Nurses at the hospital, which is owned by Ascension, accuse the company of putting profits before patients.

 “Nurses are patient advocates at the bedside and, when we need to be, on the strike line,” said Angela Cammarn, RN in the cardiac intensive care unit. “It’s very hard to get nurses to leave their patients, but what Ascension management is doing to our facilities is simply unacceptable. We were hopeful that bargaining a strong contract would remedy our concerns, but it’s clear management needs to see how serious we are about improving patient care.”

According the union, nurses will provide standard notice of a plan to strike at least ten days in advance. They say top issues for their contract include workplace violence prevention, safe staffing, and nursing staff recruitment and retention. “This is about better health care for every single person in Wichita,” said Lisa Watson, RN in the medical intensive care unit. “As nurses, we see what’s going wrong in our hospital every day. As a union, we’re demanding management hear us out about our solutions to those problems and start taking action to make things go right.”

The union said the strike would be the first by RNs in Kansas history.

 In November 2022, St. Francis became the largest hospital in Wichita and first private-sector hospital in the city to unionize when the nurses voted by a nearly two-to-one margin to join NNOC/NNU. Months later, in March 2023, nurses at nearby Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph hospital voted to join NNOC/NNU, making them the second Ascension-owned facility in Wichita to join. Between St. Joseph and St. Francis, NNOC/NNU represents a total of nearly 1,000 Wichita-area nurses, with more than 650 at St. Francis and 300 at St. Joseph.

 Nationwide, three Ascension-owned facilities have joined NNOC/NNU in less than a year. Ascension is one of the largest not-for-profit and Catholic hospital chains in the nation.