City Desk

Nurses Rally Outside Washington Hospital Center

Hundreds of nurses are expected to picket outside Washington Hospital Center tonight amid a contract dispute with the center's management.

 Stephen Frum, a nurse at the hospital and chief shop steward for Nurses United, an organization representing the 1,600 nurses at the hospital, tells City Desk the hospital’s terms fail to remedy the facility's nurse shortage and would reduce the existing nurses' take home pay.

Currently, nurses are spread thin, caring for six to seven patients at a time, when nurses should be caring for only four to five, Frum says. In order to fill the shortage, the hospital must add 200 to 250 more nurses. The pay reduction, hitting nurses with more than 15 years experience the hardest, could cause the hospital to lose good nurses, making an already bad situation worse, he adds.

Hospital spokesperson So Young Pak writes in a press release, "our proposals demonstrate our commitment to improve clinical staffing levels...[and] to reduce overtime." Nurse wages will remain at the top of the market, but there's a focus on areas "in which our pay structure differs significantly from what is standard at other hospitals in the region," she adds.

Negotiations will continue over the next few weeks. In the past, negotiations haven’t usually taken this long, Frum says.

“This [picket] is not going to affect anything. They have the legal right to be part of this activity…our contract negotiations will go on,” Pak says.

The current contract will expire May 25.

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  • Rick Mangus

    Some of these complaints are typical union bull shit! Caring for 7 to 8 patients as oppose to 5 or 6, give me a break and don't try and feed this to the rest of us!

  • …done

    Rick, you'd be the first one to sue if your medical care was less than stellar. Don't assume that that the nurse is handing out Tylenol.

  • Texas Bill

    Washington Hospital Center: the same geniuses who fired a bunch of nurses because they could not get to work during the blizzard -- and have now had to rehire them and pay full back pay, because management suddenly realized that the whole town shut down, not just their nurses! What kind of management is that?

  • Nurse

    Rick, are you saying that nurses don't care for 7 to 8 patients? Next time someone you know is in the hospital, ask them to ask the nurse how many patients she has? The answer may surprise you. Nurses file objections to such assignments on a daily basis. It's not fair to the patients or the nurse. The patients care becomes compromised and the nurse risks loosing her license. No one wins in this situation. The patient will die or sue and the nurse won't be able to practice as a nurse.

  • Brooklander

    Whoa Rick--I for one believe that nurses should be the ones to decide the amount of patients they can SAFELY care for. If a nurse says that she can handle 5 or 6 patients at a time to do her job well, do you really want to be the 7th or 8th one in her case load? Maybe you do, but I don't.

  • Barb

    Texas Bill - the vast majority of us made it to work during the snow. It was not easy, but we are a dedicated lot, and knew well in advance of the approaching storm. Most of us acted like adults and prepared accordingly. I don't speak for everyone of course, but I know some of us lost respect for the nurses who didn't make it in.

  • Know the truth

    @Texas Bill - The story about nurses being fired for not BEING ABLE to make it in during the snowstorm was a pile of hooey. The long=time nurse who was the focus of the story had her grievance hearing and last week the arbitrator ruled she changed her story at least three times....and the hospital clearly documented that it sent a four wheel drive to the front of her house - and that she refused to come out and get in the vehicle and go to work. In fact, the arbitrator ruled that she cannot appeal further or litigate the case. She has been fired. Period. Grievance denied.

    Nearly all the nurses at WHS acted heroically. Many slept on air mattresses or operating tables and stayed to care for the patients. The few who were fired deserved to be canned, and now the truth of their cases is coming out.

  • Penelope

    Whew! I agree with Brooklander that nurses should be the ones to decide the amount of patients they can safely care for. In fact there is a recent survey which is about the nurse-patient ratio which has a good outcome on the patients and even in nurses themselves. Caring for seven and more patients is highly wearisome and risky.