WORCESTER, MA — The registered nurses of UMass Memorial Medical Center University campus voted Friday to ratify a new three-year contract with UMMMC management that provides the significant staffing improvements nurses sought to ensure their patients receive quality care at this level-one trauma center.
“Nothing is more important to nurses than the safety of our patients and the quality of care we deliver every day. This is an important agreement that will provide safe limits on nurses’ patient assignments, which will mean our nurses can deliver and our patients will receive better care,” said Margaret McLoughlin, RN, co-chair of the local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, which represents more than 1,100 nurses covered by the new three-year contract.
Highlights of the agreement include:
· Contractually guaranteed limits on nurses’ patient assignments for nurses working on the medical surgical units, including no more than five patients on days and evenings, and a mix of five and six patient assignments for nurses on nights.
· Contractually guaranteed limits on assignments for “resource nurses.” These are nurses who guide the flow of patients on each floor, and also assist other nurses with more complex patient situations.
· Improved RN-to-patient ratios in the hospital’s psychiatric unit, as well as the addition of new staff in the emergency department, including a guarantee of increased staffing for patients in critical condition no matter where they are in the hospital.
· To support the new staffing limits, the hospital has committed to hire a significant number of nurses, with all these positions being phased in over a six-month period following ratification.
· Nurses will receive a 1 percent across-the-board salary increase retroactive to April 7, 2012, a 1 percent increase on April 6, 2013 and a 1 percent increase on April 5, 2014.
In achieving the new contract, the nurses expressed appreciation for the efforts of U.S. Congressman James McGovern, who played a pivotal role in the last few days working with both parties to get them to the table so that an agreement could be reached.
“Congressman McGovern is a true friend to nurses and a powerful advocate for our patients and the community we serve,” said Ellen Smith, RN, co-chair of the nurses bargaining unit.
The UMMMC nurses began negotiations for a new contract in February of 2011 and finally reached an agreement on May 22, a day before they were set to conduct a one-day strike.