Discussion with MIT Professor: A strike impacts us all

As thousands of Northland nurses prepare for a second strike, the reality is thousands of patients in our local hospitals will also be dealing with the ramifications of a strike as well. If contract agreements between the MNA and the hospitals cannot get hammered out and the strikes drag on, what might happen?

Today WDIO talked to MIT Economics Professor Jonathan Gruber who has studied nursing strikes extensively. Gruber’s team reviewed strikes that happened in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s in New York, a state that has had some of the most nursing strikes in the country.

“We looked at what happened overall at hospitals during their strike and what we found was patient health worsened considerably,” Gruber said. “We found that patients who were admitted during those strikes were about 20% more likely to die. And that suggests that the lack of resources during a strike have real consequences to patient health.”

Gruber also talked about why nursing strikes are a unique American issue.

“No other country in the world does that. In every other country in the world there is extensive government involvement in negotiating the wages and working conditions of workers in the healthcare sector. And that’s probably what we need too,” Gruber says. “The truth is in this case the rest of the world kind of has it right. This is just too important to just leave this without some government oversight and involvement.”

It’s not that there are no nursing shortages in other countries, and Gruber is not saying that getting the government involved is the ultimate solution to the problem. However he does say, in a situation like this when the results of a strike can be painful for patients, there may be a need for the government to get involved.

Perhaps similar to how Congress voted to avert a National railroad strike. WDIO will continue to follow the MNA nurses strike.