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In the Midst of a National Nurse Shortage Crisis ... Nurses Celebrate Landmark Legal Settlement That Will Help Ensure Fair Compensation & Bring More RNs to the Bedside
Date:3/9/2009

The $1.25 Million deal is the first settlement in 5 lawsuits nationally aimed at stopping hospitals from conspiring to depress nurse wages

ALBANY, N.Y., March 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nurses today applauded the announcement of a settlement in a class action lawsuit which was reached between bedside nurses and Northeast Health, a network which includes Albany Memorial and Samaritan Hospitals. The lawsuit contends that Albany area hospitals had for years violated federal antitrust law by sharing confidential wage data and conspiring to depress wages for registered nurses. Nurses hailed the settlement as an important step towards ensuring fair compensation for their profession and helping to solve the nurse shortage crisis, thereby improving quality of care for patients.

The $1,250,872 settlement, which is subject to court approval, includes provisions to halt anti-competitive behavior by Northeast Health in the future. These provisions prohibit Northeast Health from sharing current and future nurse wage information with other healthcare facilities in the Albany area, and give plaintiffs access to Northeast Health witnesses in order to further prosecute the action against other area defendants. Northeast Health is the first among Albany area hospitals to "settle out" of the lawsuit and similar suits are moving forward in Detroit, Chicago, San Antonio and Memphis. The SEIU Nurse Alliance has played a leading role in supporting empirical research that has exposed the national problem of employer collusion around nurse wages, shown the link between wage levels and the shortage of bedside nurses, and demonstrated the importance of staffing levels for improving patient care.

"This is a breakthrough not only for nurses, but for the people we care for every day. For too long, hospitals cut corners when it came to valuing the hard work of nurses. Our hope is that this is the first step towards making sure that hospitals invest in the kind of quality care that patients deserve," said Cathy Glasson, RN, of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU.

"By helping to ensure competitive methods for setting RN wages, we can attract more new nurses to the profession, bring non-practicing nurses back to the bedside, and improve patient outcomes," said Anne Jacobs-Moultrie, a registered nurse and Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

The class action suit ultimately seeks to recover three times the amount that nurses in the class were underpaid. The proposed settling class consists of direct-care nurses who were employed by certain Albany area hospitals between June 20, 2002 and June 20, 2006. Northeast Health recently announced an intended merger with two other area healthcare companies, St. Peter's Health Care Services and Seton Health, but this will not effect the settlement.

The settlement comes at a time when there is an intense shortage of bedside nurses in the Albany area and throughout the country. Because of the aging population and advances in medical technology that require higher-skilled staff, more nurses are needed than ever before. According to a report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, there is currently a shortage of more than 13,000 nurses in New York State alone and over 1.2 million nursing positions will need to be filled nationally over the next 5 years. The report shows that the shortage is due in part to artificially low wages caused by collusion amongst hospital employers in a given region.

Numerous medical studies have shown that better nurse staffing levels lead to higher quality patient care, fewer medical mistakes and lower mortality rates. Nurses believe that setting fair, competitive wages will also produce a benefit for hospitals in the long-term by allowing facilities to meet their staffing needs without resorting to mandatory overtime or expensive temporary nurse agencies. Competitive wage practices offer hospitals the opportunity to enhance patient outcomes and ensure medical needs are handled by competent, compassionate nursing staff.

With more than 84,000 nurses in 23 states, the Nurse Alliance is one of the largest nurse organizations in the country. Through the Nurse Alliance, nurses are uniting across the country to pursue any and all solutions to bring nurses back to the bedside and raise the standard of care -- from enforcement of existing laws, to calling for new legislation protecting nurses and patients, to giving nurses a voice in the delivery of patient care.


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SOURCE 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
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