SPOKANE (Aug. 15, 2014) — After campaigning since December 2012, including a strike in sub-zero weather, nurses and hospital workers have won an agreement with Valley and Deaconess Hospitals that will give them a stronger voice to improve staffing and increase the hospitals’ investment in front-line care.
“We stood united for our patients and it made a huge difference,” said Tami O’Marro, a Registered Nurse at Valley Hospital. “For all our neighbors who supported us through our strike and our long campaign, know that every patient who comes to our hospital will get better care because we took action together.”
The nurses and healthcare workers went on strike last December to call for better staffing levels at the hospitals. Though they went back to work, their campaign continued both inside their hospitals and in Olympia. Yesterday, the hospital staff, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, ratified a new contract that includes huge steps forward for patient care.
“Our hospitals will now listen more closely to us when we say staffing is too low,” said Mary Robinson, a Central Sterile Tech at Deaconess Hospital. “We also won restrictions on low census so that they can’t send us home early when our patients need us.”
Highlights of the new agreement include a breakthrough where charge nurses can call a “staffing alert” during periods of short staffing where management may authorize overtime and call in more nurses. Frontline nurses and staff will also sit down with management to discuss key patient quality indicators and how to reduce incidents like falls, infections, and nurse turnover. The staff will also receive across-the-board wage increases that will bring their wages more in line with market rates, improving recruitment and retention for experienced caregivers at the hospitals.
“Ensuring that Deaconess and Valley provide safe, quality healthcare is important to me. Deaconess was founded as a Methodist institution with patient focused mission,” said Pastor Deb Conklin. “The changes workers have won will help to ensure that patients, not profits, are the primary concern.”
The nurses and healthcare workers are keeping up their fight to improve staffing statewide and will pursue legislation to create nurse staffing minimums in Olympia next session.
SEIU HealthCare 1199NW is more than 26,000 nurses and healthcare workers across Washington state united for quality patient care and good careers in the healthcare facilities and agencies where they work. Click here for more information.