TAMPA, Fla., May 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Registered nurses at 10 Florida hospitals that are a part of the nation's largest for profit hospital chain, Nashville-based HCA, have achieved their first collective bargaining contract with important improvements in patient care protections and enhanced professional and economic standards. Together, these provisions will help keep experienced RNs on staff at the bedside, National Nurses United (NNU) announced today. NNU is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the U.S., with 170,000 members.
The agreement affects some 3,100 RNs at HCA hospitals throughout Florida: Central Florida Regional Hospital, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Largo Medical Center, St. Petersburg General Hospital, Trinity Medical Center, Fawcett Memorial Hospital, Northside Hospital, Osceola Regional Medical Center, Oak Hill Hospital and Blake Medical Center.
"This is historic day for Florida RNs," said Julia Scott, RN, "and we hope it can be a roadmap for our colleagues nationwide." Scott is on staff at the Medical Intensive Care Unit, Largo Medical Center.
RNs say the settlement could influence negotiations at 6 other HCA hospitals in Texas and Missouri where NNU affiliates are also in first contract talks. In December, 2011, 450 RNs at HCA's MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas, members of NNU's Nevada affiliate, reached agreement on their first contract. HCA RNs at two San Jose, CA, hospitals begin their negotiations for contract renewals this month. Menorah Medical Center RNs in Kansas will do the same this summer.
Safe patient care is the centerpiece of the contracts, said the Florida nurses. Florida HCA management agreed to a Professional Practice Committee made up of elected RNs at each of the 10 facilities. Charged with making recommendations to management on improving patient care, these committees will provide input on technologies and workplace safety.
Another safe patient care provision in the agreement covers patient staffing levels. The contract provides staffing by level, tying the numbers of nurses assigned to patients – ratios -- to severity of medical condition and stage of recovery. The contract establishes staffing levels as policy enforceable by staffing committees. Staffing committees are comprised equally of staff RNs on joint committee with management to review staffing issues in each of the hospitals, per the new agreements.
In addition, the contract protects RNs against forced overtime and provides an Equitable Wage Step and Grade System based on years of RN experience. This system includes credit for previous years of RN employment, ensuring that experienced RNs will both remain at the hospitals and join staffs when there are openings.
"I am proud to stand with my colleagues in support of this agreement," said Kristen Collins, RN, who works in the Labor and Delivery Unit at St. Pete General. "The gains we made make me excited to continue my career in a facility that will value skilled, experienced nurses."
SOURCE National Nurses Organizing Committee-Florida