OLYMPIA Pickets replaced performing the rounds at Olympia s St. Peter Hospital Monday morning.

Five hundred members of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, walked off the job for what the union calls health care workers striking over the rising cost of health care.

My husband has cystic fibrosis, says Certified Nursing Assistant Abbey Bruce, who says his medication used to be covered by the Providence Plan. But now, we re up to out of pocket, $400 per month, for his medications he needs baseline to stay alive. So I ve had to take a second job.

She put together pickets for the strike, which the union says would be the first for Western Washington hospital employees since 2004.

We re going to be fully staffed, says Susan Meenk, VP for Human Resources at Providence St. Peter. We do have some replacement workers coming in from other Providence hospitals, and temporary workers.

She admits the deductible has gone up for families, but says the union is not taking into account the company s new wellness program as an added benefit. She also disputed figures, provided by the union, which show hospital executive salaries have skyrocketed while employee deductibles have gone up.

If you look at any other organizations that are similar in size and scope to ours, we actually feel those wages are conservative, said Meenk.

The SEIU says the strike will last until Saturday at 9:59am.

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