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Nurses Strike in Canadian Province, Hundreds of Patients Discharged

May 10, 1991

REGINA, Saskatchewan (AP) _ About 5,500 nurses walked off their jobs at nearly 100 hospitals in the province of Saskatchewan today, forcing hospital administrators to discharge hundreds of patients.

The walkout followed a breakdown in contract talks over wages, job security and benefits.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses has said essential services will be maintained, but union officials would determine what services were essential.

″The number of patients we have in critical care is higher than we had anticipated, but ... we’re trying to get that covered through discussions on essential services,″ Harvey Fox, director of the South Saskatchewan Hospital Center, said today.

Three or four high-risk obstetric patients and four babies from the neo- natal section have been transferred out of the province, said Royce Gill, president of Regina’s General Hospital. Gill refused to say which province.

The nurses union in neighboring Manitoba is asking its members to boycott patients from Saskatchewan.

The negotiations broke down Thursday night. A provincial official serving as an intermediary in the talks, Mick Grainger, declared the two sides at an impasse.

Union president Pat Stuart said she couldn’t believe the government would halt talks on the eve of a strike deadline.

Fred Rayworth, chief negotiator for the Saskatchewan Health-Care Association, said the hospitals couldn’t afford union demands for a 19 percent wage increase over two years. The hospitals have offered a 5 percent raise over one year.

Saskatchewan nurses now make between $25,442 and $33,059 a year.

Other issues in the dispute are job security and benefits. Hospitals around the province have recently reduced the number of beds and laid off hundreds of people.

The hospitals were given 48 hours notice to prepare for a strike.

They canceled all but emergency surgery, sent more than 1,200 patients - all but the most seriously ill - home, and transferred some patients to hospitals outside the province.

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