Swedish closing two emergency departments ahead of strike

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SEATTLE -- Swedish Medical Center posted signs at its hospitals and on its website warning of plans to close two emergency departments during a strike this week of 7,800 registered nurses, caregivers and staff.

Swedish closed emergency services at its campuses in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and in Redmond at 7 p.m. Monday.

The strike, set to last three days, will begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

"Ever since corporate giant Providence took over Swedish, healthcare workers have seen management prioritize profits and executive pay over patients’ needs, causing severe care problems, understaffing and turnover," the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW union said in a prepared statement. "Providence has grown into Washington’s largest healthcare corporation, and now controls over 1,000 facilities in seven states. "

On Monday, dozens of of people made signs ahead of the strike. Nurses, caregivers and hospital staff plan to picket in front of each of the Swedish campuses.

They say they want better contracts that will help retain staff and address workloads.

Swedish officials say they're offering more than an 11 percent wage increase, but claim the union is asking for about two times that much.

Officials also say they are bringing in thousands of temporary employees to maintain the status quo of the hospital. But to bring in this type of back-up, the hospital is spending at least $11 million.

That's something that Swedish employee Jenifer Hollyfield say is an insult to her and her coworkers.

"It's hard to hear they'd rather invest $11 million on hiring security guards and outside workers flown in from all over the country than to put into the workers who have been here all these years," Hollyfield said.

Hospital officials say they will likely have an ambulance on standby both at Ballard and Redmond in case people show up needing emergency services. They have also worked with first responders to make sure they know not to bring patients in need of emergency care to those locations.

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