Swedish Medical Center has posted signs at its hospitals and on its website warning of its plans to close two emergency departments during a strike this week of 7,800 registered nurses, caregivers and staff, a hospital spokeswoman said Sunday.
But beyond those notices, and stickers emergency room workers are wearing on their uniforms to notify patients about Tuesday’s strike, Woodes Rogers, a nurse at Swedish’s Ballard facilty, worries that people with urgent care needs won’t know where else to seek care in the next week.
“People don’t have any idea,” said Rogers, who has worked in the Ballard emergency room for 12 years. “I think that makes for a pretty risky and dangerous situation because the longer you wait for treatment the worse your options get.”
Swedish said it plans to close emergency services at its Ballard and Redmond campuses starting Monday at 7 p.m.
The strike, set to last three days, will begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, which represents the workers. The union said the strike would represent the largest for heath-care workers in recent history.
Nurses planning to go on strike were instantly critical of Swedish’s decision over the weekend to close the urgent care and emergency services at the two campuses, questioning how hospital officials could realistically ensure the public knew those services would not be available for much of the week.
The strike is scheduled to end Friday morning.
The union delivered its strike notice to Swedish more than a week ago, which prompted hospital officials to pull its most recent offer and announce it would not return to the bargaining table until the picketing ended.
In a recent statement, Swedish CEO Guy Hudson said the hospital’s most recent offer included an 11.25% wage increase over the next four years.
Tiffany Moss, a Swedish spokeswoman, said the hospital will share more details on Monday about its plans during the strike.
The hospital said it is bringing in nurses from elsewhere this week.
Swedish is affiliated with Providence Health & Services.
Diane Sosne, a registered nurse and the SEIU local union president, said the health-care workers are striking over retention and recruitment concerns, and other issues. In addition to preparing to close the two emergency departments, Swedish has rescheduled all elective surgeries, patient classes and some other procedures for much of next week at some campuses. The hospital has reached out to patients about scheduled appointments with letters and by phone, Moss said.
The labor and delivery unit at the Ballard campus already has closed, and won’t reopen at full capacity until Friday.
Both the Ballard and Redmond campuses have 18-bed emergency rooms, according to Swedish’s website. Rogers said the Ballard emergency room sees about 65 patients per day, a majority of whom are walk-in patients who arrive on their own, not via an ambulance.
The hospital is advising patients who might need emergency or urgent care services in Ballard or Redmond to go to one of its other facilities, including its emergency departments at Seattle’s First Hill and Cherry Hill campuses. The hospital network also has emergency departments at its hospitals in Issaquah, Edmonds and Mill Creek in Everett.
“Try getting in rush hour from Ballard to First Hill quickly,” Sosne said. “Not possible.”