Nurses, AMITA spar over potential replacement nurses at Joliet hospital

Nurses approaching a July 4 strike date have asked state officials to block AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet from using out-of-state replacement nurses to replace them.

The Illinois Nurses Association on Monday accused AMITA of being prepared to violate nurse permitting rules put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AMITA in turn said it is following state regulations as it prepares to keep the hospital running if a strike occurs.

"If a strike occurs, we are providing uninterrupted, high quality care and service throughout," AMITA spokesman Timothy Nelson said in a written statement. "All nurses being called in to assist for the duration of the strike are licensed in Illinois, and background checks have been performed on each in compliance with state regulatory requirements."

The two sides meet Tuesday for the last bargaining session scheduled before the strike date.

The nurses in a letter to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation contend that a recruiting firm used by AMITA is soliciting nurses from across the country to come to Joliet to work if a strike occurs.

The union contends strike replacement nurses do not qualify for the COVID-19 permit, which can be used to bring out-of-state nurses to Illinois hospitals for emergency staffing during the pandemic.

The union in the letter states that "AMITA and its contractors are attempting to use emergency permits that are intended only for responding to the pandemic for purposes of aiding the hospital in a labor dispute."