Pact Includes Improvements in Staffing Levels, Health Benefits and a Pay Hike
While Hospitals Across Town and Across the State are Slashing Staffing Levels and Degrading Care, St. Vincent has Answered the Nurses’ Call to Increase Nurse Staffing and Improve Care
WORCESTER, MA — The registered nurses of St. Vincent Hospital recently cast an overwhelming vote to ratify a new three-year contract. The three-year pact includes improvements to nurse staffing levels which will lower nurse patient assignments and provide better patient care at the facility, a decrease in the cost of health benefits for most part time nurses and a modest pay hike for all nurses.
“This is a great victory for nurses and this community as we were able to reach an agreement that will allow St. Vincent nurses to continue to provide high quality care to our patients and to maintain the highest standards of professional nursing practice," said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “This is a win for all parties, and the biggest winners will be our patients.”
While hospitals across the Commonwealth, including cross town rival UMass Memorial Medical Center, have been making dramatic cuts to RN staffing levels and increases to nurses’ patient assignments to boost profits at the expense of patient safety, Tenet-owned St. Vincent Hospital has answered the nurses’ call to make improvements to its contractually guaranteed staffing levels in a number of areas. The increases include the addition of RNs for each shift in the hospital’s busy emergency department, additional staff on the maternity units and pulmonary care unit, and targeted staffing improvements in other inpatient areas, including increases in RN and support staff to allow nurses more time with patients.
In addition to the staffing improvements, the new contract achieved improvements the nurses sought to their health insurance benefit, specifically, better cost sharing on health insurance for most part-time nurses. Nurses working 30 hours per week will now pay the same rate as full-time nurses, a 20 percent cost share, while nurses working 24 hours will now pay 35 percent, down from the 40 percent share required under the previous contact.
The three-year agreement, which runs from Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2016, includes a 1 percent across the board increase back to July 1, 2014, 1 percent on January 1, 2015 and 1 percent on January 1, 2016 and an additional 3.5% for staff nurses at the top of the pay split over the last two years of the agreement. The pact also includes increases to the rate of pay for per diem nurses, an extra paid day off for all nurses who wish to attend classes to improve their clinical practice and a provision that allows nurses to arrange their own self scheduling, allowing them to swap shifts with other nurses as needed.
The more than 700 nurses at St. Vincent Hospital, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began negotiation for the new contact in November of 2013. After more than 20 negotiations, a settlement was reached on February 3 and the membership ratified the agreement on February 18, 2015.