MID-CITY — Registered nurses at Saint John’s Health Center voted to ratify their first collective bargaining agreement in secret ballot voting Friday and Saturday, union officials said.
Key to the agreement are provisions that the nurses say will enhance patient protections, as well as economic gains, no reductions in nurses’ health coverage or pensions, and other contract protections that the nurses hope will promote quality of care and retention of experienced nurses and the recruitment of new ones.
“Saint John’s RNs have come a long way in our fight for our patients and our profession practice at our hospital,” said Chris Busch, an RN at the facility and a member of the California Nurses Association bargaining team. “The new patient safety provisions and RN rights language will ensure the recruitment and retention of qualified nurses to care for our community.”
Nurses worked for over a year to come to an agreement with officials at the hospital.
Patient care provisions in the two-year agreement, according to the union, include:
• Adherence to the state law requirements on safe staffing with minimum RN-to-patient ratios, with arbitration for addressing disputes on staffing issues.
• Restrictions on assigning RNs to clinical areas for which they do not have demonstrated clinical expertise and orientation.
• Compliance with the new state law on safe lifting policies to reduce patient falls and accidents and RN injuries associated with lifting of patients.
• Establishment of a seven member Professional Practice Committee of nurses elected by their colleagues to meet with management to discuss patient care issues.
• Assurance that new technology will not be used to displace RN professional judgment or undermine patient care or RN jobs.
Among other contract highlights, according to the union:
• Wage increases, retroactive to last December of up to 5 percent the first year, and up to 7 percent the second year, depending on length of service at the hospital.
• No cuts in RN health benefits or pension plans.
• Just cause disciplinary rights for RNs.
The California Nurses Association represents 500 RNs at Saint John’s. The nurses voted to join CNA in May of last year.