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Registered Nurses at St. Joseph Medical Center Hold Informational Picket During Stalled Contract Negotiations

TACOMA, Wash., Nov. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing more than 1,000 registered nurses at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, held an informational picket today to highlight issues critical to nurse recruitment and retention. During six negotiation sessions, little progress has been made, and the hospital's administration is proposing numerous reductions to the existing benefits and health care package. WSNA is concerned that the administration's proposed changes to the sick leave policy will discourage nurses from taking time off when they are sick. WSNA and hospital administration are scheduled to meet for federal mediation on November 17th.

"We are in the midst of a growing nursing shortage. I just find it shocking that the hospital would put forth a proposal that makes St. Joseph less and less competitive over the next three years. The administration needs to respect their nurses and provide them with an adequate salary and benefits package. The current proposal from the administration simply doesn't value the critical role nurses play in patient care, and that's not acceptable," said Barbara Frye, BSN, RN, Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations for WSNA.

"As a fundamental issue of patient safety, nurses need to be encouraged to stay home when they are sick so they're not contributing to the spread of disease in the hospital. We're facing a flu pandemic right now which means that many nurses and their families are likely to be affected by flu this winter. It's important that nurses are able to take the time off that they need to care for themselves or their children. The administration's proposal would limit a nurse's ability to use earned illness time, which will effectively discourage nurses from calling in sick. This new policy is a step backwards and is especially alarming during this difficult flu season when the CDC is recommending that employers make their sick leave policies more accommodating, not less," added Frye.

The administration is proposing sweeping changes to their health care benefits which will increase monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs for nurses. The basic coverage plan currently offered at no cost will now have a monthly premium. Other plans are being eliminated completely, including the most popular plan among nurses. The hospital is also proposing the elimination of co-pays for visits and will replace these with a co-insurance fee which could be up to 20% to 30% of the costs of each visit and reach hundreds of dollars for treatments received.

"We're speaking out today because we want St. Joseph Medical Center to be a great place for patients and for nurses, now and in the future. To provide excellent patient care, you need to recruit and retain excellent nurses. If our benefits shrink and we have to pay more for our health care, but our salaries don't increase to match these expenses, then I just don't know if we'll be able to continue hiring and keeping excellent nurses here at our hospital," said Beth Stanley-McKay, a registered nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center.

Nurses are concerned that the small salary increases proposed by the hospital will not cover the increased cost of health care. A second concern is that the administration's salary and benefits proposals will cause St. Joseph to fall behind its competitors in the area, which could lead to the loss of experienced nurses and make it more difficult to fill openings.

Frye added, "We certainly hope that today serves as a wake-up call to the hospital administration that nurses are willing to stand up for quality and safe patient care. Nurses demand and deserve respect and recognition from St. Joseph Medical Center. I hope that the hospital administration will come to the November 17th mediation session ready to recognize the important role that nurses play at the hospital with a fair contract offer."

Founded in 1908, WSNA is the professional organization representing more than 16,000 registered nurses in Washington State. WSNA effectively advocates for the improvement of health standards and availability of quality health care for all people; promotes high standards for the nursing profession; and advances the professional and economic development of nurses.

SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association

SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association
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