PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The registered nurses of Berkshire Medical Center, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, voted by a 97 percent margin on Thursday, June 28 to ratify a new contract that marks a huge success for patients, nurses and the community by improving staffing and patient care conditions.
“Safe patient care was always our top priority,” said Alex Neary, RN and Co-Chair of the BMC MNA Bargaining Committee. “Our nurses remained committed and unified for 22 months to achieve the outcome we were striving toward. With this new agreement, we look forward to continuing to provide high-quality patient care in an environment that will benefit our community.”
“This agreement is the culmination of years of effort by Berkshire Medical Center nurses to make sure our patients have the nursing resources they need,” said Gerri Jakacky, RN and Co-Chair of the BMC MNA Bargaining Committee. “Starting several years ago we extensively documented our patient care concerns, presented them to hospital management and organized our nurses around common-sense solutions. When we faced obstacles, we stuck together and spoke in a unified voice. It is our hope that we can focus on implementing these improvements and others and that management will no longer treat the nurses as adversaries but will work with us to make BMC the best place for patients and caregivers that it can be.”
Highlights of the Agreement
- Covers the period of Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2021
- Language that will help keep charge nurses free to fulfill the role of the charge nurse in order to ensure safe patient care on their units.
- The hospital will add additional nursing resources (a total of 9.5 full-time equivalent positions) to four areas: Behavioral health units (including for emergency department mental health boarders); mother baby unit/pediatrics; specialty (PACU, critical care, step-down, emergency department); and medical-surgical units. These nurses will not be included in the staffing grids and will not be pre-assigned prior to their shift.
- The hospital agrees not to diminish the current staffing grids
- The hospital agrees to post and recruit positions when a scheduled position in a unit and shift is consistently unfilled for four or more consecutive schedule postings, unless the unfilled position is the result of a planned or unplanned leave of absence or the position is already posted. Management will also post a position where a per diem (an employee without a regular schedule) has been working for six months in the same position.
- The Massachusetts Patient Safety Act will create safe limits on the number of patients who can be assigned to an RN at any one time. It will be presented to Mass. voters in November. Its requirements would not go into effect in any hospital that has an active collective bargaining agreement until that contract expires. But in an important part of the settlement with BMC, management agreed that when the law goes into effect, the hospital will comply with it even if it becomes effective during the term of the contract.
- Wages: Improvements which will help recruit, retain and better compensate caregivers