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More than 800 nurses begin strike at Chicago hospital

The strike was supposed to include about 1,300 nurses, but a judge ruled that 525 who work in critical care couldn't take part because it would endanger patients.

CHICAGO — More than 800 nurses walked off the job Saturday at Chicago’s University of Illinois Hospital after the latest contract negotiations aimed at averting the strike ended with an impasse.

Dozens of nurses began picketing around the hospital Saturday morning after the 14-hour bargaining session concluded without an agreement. The three-year contract covering the nurses, who are part the Illinois Nurses Association, expired Monday.

More than 20 bargaining sessions were held over the summer. The strike was supposed to include about 1,300 nurses, but a Cook County judge ruled Friday that 525 nurses who work in critical care units could not take part because it would endanger patients’ safety.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees had sued to keep many of the nurses from striking.

Michael Zenn, CEO of the University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics, said hospital administrators were “disappointed” that the marathon bargaining session failed to reach an agreement.

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Zenn said in statement Saturday that the hospital was working with an agency to bring more than 600 nurses and other health care workers into its workforce amid the strike.

The nurses' union has said the strike could last seven days. No further negotiating sessions were scheduled, as of Saturday.

The nurses are demanding limits on the number of patients under each nurse’s care at any given time. The hospital contends that set nurse-to-patient ratios do not work.

Doris Carroll, president of the Illinois Nurses Association and a University of Illinois Health nurse, said research supports the nurses' push for nurse-to-patient rations.

“We have two decades of research to support that having adequate nurses at the bedside, will prevent falls, will prevent infections, will prevent deaths, in a hospital mind you,” she said.