Registered nurses in the Kentucky and West Virginia Nurses Association Union walked out of each Appalachian Regional Healthcare facility at midnight on Monday and remain on the picket line.
Union nurses are on strike at ARH hospitals around the region after turning down the organization's final new contract offer. But ARH officials say they're already hiring new nurses to fill in for those on strike. The question is, how long they'll be there.
There's more than jobs at stake.
"My family, my home," said Belinda Hall.
Hall is a union member. She's been a registered nurse for ARH for 16 years and lives one mile from work. As she stands on the picket line, ARH is advertising openings for permanent replacement nurses.
"There's always that fear when they talk about permanent workers, but you also have to stand up for what you believe in," Hall said.
"The main reason we're out here is staffing and the sense of disrespect we've gotten from this company. We're right now running 57 total where we usually run 80 Rn's," said Bruce Saylor.
Quality patient care seems to be the common theme while union officials say more than 50 percent of their registered nurses on are strike to provide better care. Back inside the buildings, some ARH officials like Whitesburg CEO Ellen Wright, who is also a registered nurse, is stepping up to make sure healthcare remains the priority.
"We actually do not need my assistance today, so I'm just here for back up. We have nursing managers that are on the floor working today," Wright said.
So far, all ARH hospitals report business as usual.
"We have hired some agency staff nurses to make sure that proper care is being provided to our patients," said Susan Roman, Community CEO.
Union officials say the definition of permanent replacement nurses could be questioned. Whether union members are losing their jobs to those nurses is unclear and they say this could end up in court.