Talks are First to be Held Since Hundreds of Nurses Picketed on March 13th
WORCESTER, Mass. — A federal mediator has arranged for the resumption of contract talks between the registered nurses of UMass Memorial – University Campus and hospital management on Tuesday, March 25, 2003. The session was arranged several days after more than 200 bargaining unit RNs conducted informational picketing and leafleting during a snow storm outside the facility.
Poor staffing at the facility was the key reason behind the nurses’ desire to picket and it is the key issue preventing a contract settlement.
"Our staffing ratios are not just inadequate, they are patently dangerous in some cases," said Maker.
"Nurses on some floors are regularly assigned six and seven patients per nurse, and sometime as many as 11 patients, this on a floor with severely ill trauma, neurological and surgical patients requiring constant monitoring and oversight from their nurses," said Sally Charest, RN. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, these ratios are life threatening. The study found that for every patient over four that is assigned to a nurse there is a 7% increase in mortality of those patients. The risk of death and complications for a patient being cared for by a nurse with seven patients is 21% higher; for a patient whose nurse has 11 patients, it is 49% higher.
The RNs are demanding the hospital agree to the creation of a staffing board comprised of three members of management and three MNA members. The staffing board would set core staffing requirements for each floor and unit at the hospital to ensure safe care for patients. This method of addressing staffing concerns has worked will at the Boston Medical Center – E. Newton Campus. The RNs are also demanding that the hospital provide all necessary equipment and supplies for the proper care of patients.
The RNs are also fighting a hospital proposal that weakens seniority rights and allows the hospital to abandon its responsibility to train and orient RNs who move to a new floor or unit due to a layoff.
More than 700 registered nurses are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association on the University Campus. The nurses’ contract expired on April 1, 2002 and talks began on April 16, 2002. To date, 28 negotiating sessions have been held, with the last seven sessions facilitated by a federal mediator.