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Registered Nurses from Public Health - Seattle & King County Hold Informational Picket to Highlight Public Safety Concerns
Date:2/19/2010

SEATTLE, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing more than 300 registered nurses at Public Health - Seattle & King County, is holding an informational picket today to highlight issues critical to public health and safety. During stalled contract negotiations, public health nurses are deeply concerned that the administration's new limitations on work schedules will reduce the ability to meet the needs of patients and clients. The picket is being held from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in front of the Public Health administration building before the nurses and administration head into their first mediation session.

"For us public health nurses, this is about having the flexibility to meet our clients' needs and ensure that they have access to our services. Public health nurses often serve people who need access beyond the typical business hours. I work with young pregnant women and young mothers, people who have work or school during the day and aren't able to adjust their schedules. They have no other resources and will fall through the cracks if I can't provide them with the care and support they need. If we don't maintain this health care safety net for our most vulnerable populations, the health and safety of everyone in Seattle and King County is jeopardized. The administration must make access to services a priority," said Tina Maestas, a public health nurse working out of the White Center Public Health Center.

The public health department has already begun to transition all staff to a standard set of hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. depending on their location. Previously, nurses could work earlier or later in the day or work four 10 hours days to accommodate appointments or off-site visits to clients.  WSNA estimates that up to 60 nurses could be affected by the change in work schedules with an impact on hundreds of clients.  For example, the Nurse Family Partnership which assists young mothers, many of whom are attending high school, will be affected because now a nurse will only be able to schedule one after-school visit per day before the end of the work day. Public health nurses are also reporting that the new shorter hours at clinics have already impacted the number of patients and clients who are able to come in for appointments for services like family planning and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

"We know this is a difficult time for funding, and that's why these nurses aren't fighting for a pay raise. They're standing up for their clients and asking this administration to join them. Public health nurses simply need flexibility in their schedules so that they can work during the hours that their clients are available. Fewer hours available for appointments and home visits means it will be harder for people to access critical programs like Maternity Support Services and the Nurse Family Partnership which benefit at-risk pregnant mothers and young children. I hope we can work with the administration to find a solution that doesn't sacrifice the needs of our most vulnerable people during an already difficult economy," said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations for WSNA.

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

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SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association
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