Nurses from three Prince George's County health facilities picketed outside the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro yesterday and then went inside to appeal to the county council for help in settling their four-week-old strike.
Carolyn Larkin, president of the local staff nurses chapter of the Maryland Nurses Association, asked the nine council members to intervene in contract negotiations that have been moving slowly.
"You can't be neutral," Larkin told the council.
"We have no place in negotiations," said council member William Amonett, expressing the majority view that council members should not interfere with the newly created private corporation that operates the three county-owned health facilites.
When councilman Floyd Wilson said "I should not intervene . . . . I have been informed that health care there at the two hospitals and health center is what it should be," the 30 or so nurses roared their disapproval. The nurses insist that during their absence there have been numerous problems in patient care, particularly in the nurseries.
Council member Anthony Cicoria sided with the nurses, announcing that he is drafting emergency legislation to disband the hospital corporation if it does not settle the nurses' strike in the next few days. "We cannot continue this course . . . we need to end this power play," Cicoria told a reporter.
Over the weekend, the nurses and hospital officials appeared to have reached a tentative settlement, but the agreement is stalled on back-to-work terms.
The hospital has agreed to take back all of the strikers, but 17 of them will have to take different jobs because their postions have been filled.
The union has said it will not return to work until all nurses are given their old jobs back.