California nurses threaten to strike

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Nurses and hospital workers carry signs and wear masks as they protest outside of the University of California San Francisco medical center August 5, 2009 in San Francisco, California.

Thousands of nurses in California will strike later this month if certain protections aren’t made available from the swine flu.

As many as 16,000 nurses would walk off the job on October 30th. Their union, the California Nurses Association, has been in talks with the state’s largest hospital system to obtain safety masks, and get state and federal flu protection recommendations written into their contract.

In July, a 51-year-old nurse in Sacramento died after contracting the H1N1 virus. Nurses have complained about poor access to what’s known as N95 masks, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for those who treat swine flu patients.

Catholic Healthcare West runs 28 of the 34 hospitals that would be affected by the walkout. The nurse’s union, however, says a strike would abruptly end if a major emergency occurred. Hospitals say, if there’s a strike, they’ll postpone elective surgeries.

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