Illinois Hospital Workers, Elected Officials Rally in Springfield, Demand Safe Staffing, Funding for Safety Net Hospitals


On first day of Black Maternal Health Week, SEIU Healthcare Illinois releases new white paper detailing chronic hospital under-staffing, healthcare racial redlining 

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Hospital workers with SEIU Healthcare Illinois gathered with State Senator Christopher Belt and State Representative Kam Buckner on Thursday, April 11 at the Capitol building in Springfield to demand the Illinois legislature take action to address healthcare racial redlining and a dangerous hospital staffing crisis across Illinois. At the rally, workers also unveiled a new white paper, exposing how major health systems fail Black and brown communities and calling on the state to protect Illinois hospital workers and patients from unsafe conditions. A video of the rally is available here. Photos are available here.

Chanting “What do we want? Safe Staffing!” and holding signs blaring “Safe Staffing Stat,” hospital workers shared their stories of chronic understaffing and demanded the state legislature pass the Hospital Worker Safety Bill (SB 3424/HB 5320), which would establish a formal process for workers to voice unsafe working conditions and hold hospital management accountable for responding to the concerns. 

“We have been sounding the alarm about the staffing crisis for years now, but no action is taken and it’s only getting worse. We are asking for help, and it is ignored,” said Kim Smith, a patient care technician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “We want to deliver good care and we want our patients to be safe. That’s why we need the Hospital Worker Safety Bill.”

Hospital workers across Illinois shared similar stories, revealing that workers throughout the state feel unsafe in their jobs. “Workers are calling off because they’re scared to come in. Others are on anxiety medication because of the situations they’re facing at work. This cannot continue,” said Ashley Bingham, a certified nursing assistant at Touchette Hospital in Centreville, Illinois.

“Every single shift I am working short-staffed. When we are forced to do the job of 2-3 people, we cannot provide the care that we want to provide to our patients,” said Kawana Gant, Clinical Associate at Ingalls Hospital in Harvey, Illinois, demanding that Illinois pass the Hospital Worker Safety Bill. 

SEIU Healthcare Illinois leaders and elected officials rallied behind workers – echoing calls for state action to address the crisis in Illinois hospitals.Illinois hospital workers deserve to feel safe at work and empowered to raise the alarm when conditions are dangerous,” said State Representative Kam Buckner, chief House sponsor of the Hospital Worker Safety Bill. “And Illinois hospital patients deserve quality healthcare in a safely staffed hospital no matter where they live. It’s time to hold health systems accountable to their workers and the communities they serve.”

“You come to work, but your place of work should not result in you being a patient,”  said State Senator Christopher Belt, chief Senate sponsor of the Hospital Worker Safety Bill. “Hospitals are some of the most hazardous places to work. We can do better, we must do better.”

The rally comes on the first day of Black maternal health week – a national week of awareness to recognize the health crisis facing Black mothers across the country. Speakers also highlighted how passing the Hospital Worker Safety Bill and other protections to fight chronic disinvestment in Black and brown communities are a racial justice imperative.

“The closure of obstetrics units in Chicago’s Black communities since 2015 are particularly troubling given the large volume of academic literature that shows a lack of access to care throughout the entire timeline of childbirth – from prenatal to postpartum – is a key driver of these disparities,” said Anne Igoe, Director of the Hospital Division at SEIU Healthcare Illinois.

New White Paper Spotlights Racial Redlining in Chicago Hospitals, Dangerous Understaffing

During the rally, SEIU Healthcare Illinois released a new white paper exposing deep cracks in Chicago’s hospital systems. The paper highlights how major healthcare systems in Chicago have disinvested in Black and brown communities and workers for years, exacerbating racial disparities in health outcomes and creating dangerously understaffed hospitals. Some key findings of the white paper include but are not limited to:

Healthcare Racial Redlining: At the publication of the report, only one hospital in the city of Chicago affiliated with a major health system was in a majority Black zip code, and since 2015, three Chicagoland hospitals have closed in diverse, working-class suburbs.

Maternal Mortality: Black women in Chicago have almost six times the pregnancy-associated mortality rate of white women. Infant mortality is more than twice as high among Black Chicagoans than among other city residents.

Lack of Trauma Centers: More than 30% of Chicago’s predominantly Black neighborhoods are at least five miles from an advanced trauma unit. These same neighborhoods are concentrated in areas that have the highest incidence of gun violence and need quick access to trauma units the most.

Staffing Shortages: In a recent SEIU survey of Chicagoland hospital workers, 70% of respondents reported understaffing and over 25% of respondents reported unsafe or unmanageable workload.

The white paper offers solutions to the mounting hospital care crisis across Illinois including through the passage of the Hospital Worker Safety Bill, mandated minimum staff-to-patient ratios and additional funding for safety net hospitals.