BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The union for nurses at St. Charles Bend have announced a 10-day strike deadline for reaching a contract agreement, and both sides in the labor dispute outlined their positions to reporters on Friday.
Nearly 1,000 nurses represented by the Oregon Nurses Association recently voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. A walkout could begin June 12.
" I can tell you 100% certainly that there is not one nurse here that wants to go out on strike," ONA Board President Tamie Cline said Friday.
Negotiators for the health system say they are disappointed by the strike notice.
Julie Ostrom, senior nursing leader and St. Charles bargaining team member, said, "One of the things I believe strongly about nursing is that our primary role is advocating for patients. In my mind, that means that we would never walk away from taking care of our patients."
Nurses have said staffing levels mean there are not enough to cover breaks, and they're covering too many patients.
The average full-time RN is making $108,000 a year.
St. Charles Bend RN Erin Harrington, chair of the ONA Bend Bargaining Unit Executive Committee, said, "If we don't have enough support staff, then caring for our patients is really difficult."
According to the health system, if the nurses do strike, there will be an impact on patients, with longer wait times and cancellations of planned procedures.
Bend resident Eric Forster had this reaction: "Being that I was in the ER a week ago, that is something that I really scratch my head about, but certainly understand that working conditions and wages are very important today."
Despite the concerns of nurses, Medicare.gov shows patients rating St. Charles Bend at four out of five stars. In all categories but timely and effective care, the system gets a perfect score.
Administrators are now making plans for continuing to serve patients during a potential strike.
St. Charles Health System Chief Operating Officer Iman Simmons said, "We hope that the ONA continues to meet us at the table and that we can work together to reach a contract agreement that is operationally feasible for St. Charles and that provides nurses with greater job satisfaction and security."
Two days of negotiations are set for next week, and a federal mediator has been called in.