Nurses at Vermont's largest medical center go on strike

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — About 1,800 unionized nurses at Vermont's largest hospital launched a two-day strike Thursday following unsuccessful contract negotiations, but hospital officials say operations continued with little disruption for patients.

Hundreds of nurses, many wearing red shirts, picketed Thursday outside the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington and at nine other locations.

"Our nurses have come out in droves to show the hospital that the proposals they're putting across the table do not address the issues the nurses have when it comes to safety of our patients, nurse-patient ratios; it doesn't address the retention and recruitment of new nurses," Laurie Aunchman, president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, said Thursday.

Eileen Whalen, president of the University of Vermont Medical Center, said Thursday hundreds of contingency nurses moved into place throughout the hospital while clinical and operations leaders were working in an incident command center.

"We have received no reports of problems with patients, visitors or staff accessing our facilities," Whalen said. "The vast majority of patients will not see an impact in terms of their appointments."

The union is seeking a 22 percent pay increase over three years. The Medical Center offered a 14 percent pay increase over three years.

The union maintained that higher wages are necessary to recruit and retain nurses and support staff and "address a crisis of understaffing."

The strike was authorized last month by a 94 percent vote in favor.

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