Backus Hospital nurses give notice of possible 2-day strike as union and management differ over personal protective gear, pay and insurance

The union representing nurses at Backus Hospital says contract negotiations are painfully slow and put parent company Hartford HealthCare on notice Friday that a brief strike is possible in 10 days.

a sign on the side of the street: Nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich have warned of a possible two-day strike.

© Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant/TNS
Nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich have warned of a possible two-day strike.

The two sides have been in contract talks since June, according to an internal communication from the Backus Federation of Nurses, part of AFT Connecticut, which is bargaining on behalf of more than 400 nurses. Nurses at the Norwich hospital recently authorized a two-day strike and the notice is an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on hospital officials.


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The union cited differences over personal protective equipment, pay and health insurance. It said the hospital insists it has the right to change insurance plans at any time without further negotiations and called it “clearly unacceptable.”

The nurses dispute statements by the hospital that personal protective equipment is always available. Nurses cope with shortages on every shift, the union said.

“The reuse and extended use of PPE is a work hazard and an infection control disaster in the making,” the union said.

Donna Handley, president of the hospital, said Backus will remain open if nurses walk off their job. “We are safe and we are prepared to care for you,” she said in a video.

“I am deeply, deeply disappointed in the nurses’ notification of a two-day strike,” Handey said. “I believe in my heart that we have done everything to avoid a strike.”

The hospital has met 19 times with the union and will “work around the clock to reach an agreement,” she said.

Parent company Hartford HealthCare said personal protective equipment “is — and has been — available to staff and patients 100% of the time.”

“We need to be clear that any statement to the contrary is inaccurate,” the company said.

Nurses are seeking higher pay and more staff to relieve nurses who often work hours after the end of their shifts, the union said.

Backus is a nonprofit hospital, and Moody’s Investors Service said in March that cash flow at nonprofit hospitals will likely be less than last year because profitable elective procedures were canceled and other services were halted due to COVID-19.

The ratings agency also said expenses for nonprofit hospitals will rise as staffing and supply costs increase in response to the epidemic.

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]


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