Lockout Continues at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital

Lawrence and Memorial Hospital nurses ended their strike Saturday night and now a hospital spokesman says they won't be allowed back without a contract agreement.

The New London hospital denied the union's request to allow nurses to return to work when they officially ended their strike at 11 p.m. Saturday. Contract issues remain unresolved, despite high hopes for a successful negotiation on Tuesday.

The lockout of 800 unionized nurses and techs will continue into tomorrow.

"Our concern is that the corporation is trying to peel away profitable services and move them away from our hospital, leaving it to wither away," said union representative Matt O'Connor in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the hospital rejected a union proposal to resume talks after 6 p.m.

But Michael O'Farrell of Lawrence and Memorial said the union's narrow focus has been an impediment to constructive conversation.

"On multiple occasions today, the Hospital tried to discuss other outstanding issues," O'Farrell said. "The union repeatedly refused to do so – remaining solely focused on one issue and one issue only. There was no willingness at all to discuss any other contractual elements in an effort to make some progress."

On Monday, Attorney George Jepsen called for hospital officials and union members to reach an agreement.

"As we approach the third full day of the worker lockout, I call upon L+M management and AFT to commit themselves to achieving a negotiated resolution.... I encourage L+M to reconsider its decision to lock out workers, who have called off their strike and expressed a willingness to return to their important work caring for L+M’s patients. ... My hope is that, through discussions, an amicable resolution can be achieved that both preserves good middle class jobs and guarantees the sustainable delivery of quality healthcare by L+M into the future," Jepsen's statement reads, in part.

"The lockout is a serious step," said hospital spokesman Michael O'Farrell early Sunday. "But because of the actions of the unions and their continued threats to conduct intermittent strikes, it is a necessary step."

He said the hospital wants uninterrupted care for its estimated 150 patients without the threat of another strike. He said patient care has not suffered.

Elective surgeries resumed Saturday, according to O'Farrell. Two surgery rooms were available 12 hours a day Saturday through Tuesday. Three additional rooms will be open for elective surgeries starting Wednesday.

"We are continuing to provide quality care to our patients," O'Farrell said. "We have been very satisfied with the quality of the temporary workers."

Negotiators will meet again Wednesday morning in hopes of reaching a resolution.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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