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Walkout at Washington Hospital Center

Sunday, March 6, 2011; A01

Almost a year of rancorous contract talks came to a head Friday when several hundred nurses at Washington Hospital Center, the region's largest hospital, walked off the job for a 24-hour strike.

To help care for patients, hospital officials flew in 600 temporary nurses from across the country. They were housed in area hotels and bused to the Northwest D.C. facility. Hospital officials also began a media campaign with print and radio advertisements in which they promised to keep the facility fully staffed and operating as usual through the weekend and into next week.

The nurses' contract expired last spring, and the two sides have been at odds since then over wages, benefits, staffing and patient safety. As of Friday afternoon, there were no public indications that either side was willing to make concessions necessary to resolve the dispute.

The strike was scheduled to end by 7 a.m. Saturday, but the union will continue to picket if the hospital follows through with its promise to lock out striking nurses for five days. Hospital officials said striking nurses will not be paid or allowed back to work until Wednesday. C1

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