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Nurses Union Calls Off Strike, Reaches Settlement on Containing H1N1

Sarah Kearns, for HealthLeaders Media, November 3, 2009

The California Nurses Union (CNU/NNOC) reached a settlement announcing a landmark agreement for establishing a national standard on containing the spread of pandemics such as H1N1, better known as the "swine flu."

Originally set to strike on October 30 because of issues with protecting nurses from the H1N1 virus, CNU/NNOC called off the strike last week. The strike would have involved more than 13,000 registered nurses in 32 hospitals in the San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) hospitals in California and Nevada.

"With this historic agreement, we are charting a new course for limiting the spread of not only swine flu, but all other dangerous pandemics that are yet to come," said Rose Ann Demoro, CNA/NNOC executive director in an official statement.

Using a system-wide task force, CNA/NNOC RNs and hospital representatives will focus on the declaration of pandemic emergencies with the help of facility infection control teams. The task force will monitor the full implementation of federal, state, and local guidelines. The task force will also set up standards in regards to checking the availability of property safety protective, communication and training policies for all hospital personnel, and consideration of off-site emergency triage and treatment.

"This is a huge breakthrough that should go a long way to making our hospitals safer and better prepared for containing the spread of H1N1 and stop the unnecessary exposure of fragile patients, their family members, or nurses and other staff to the virus," said Carol Koelle, RN, at St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino in an official statement.

Under the settlement, all CHW facilities need an employer agreement to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and those rules set in the CNA/NNOC contract. All CHW nurses will be provided the proper equipment and attire to prevent further spread of any virus when available, and the facility will provide each staff member with the proper training and information on communicable diseases they may have been exposed.

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