Right now, Meriter registered nurses are at odds with hospital management in contract bargaining over issues that could affect the quality of care for our patients. As dedicated health care professionals, we’re concerned that the proposals put forth by Meriter could diminish our ability to provide the high quality of care we’ve come to expect from Meriter Hospital.
Meriter has benefited from union good will and a reputation for paying union wages and benefits, resulting in a secure, highly qualified workforce that maintains a superior level of excellence in quality patient care.
One concern we have proposed to resolve is how Meriter assigns the number of patients each nurse cares for. We have seen our workloads increase without improving the system of accounting for how sick a patient is when assigning our workload. It is common sense that sicker patients need more care. That’s why we want to make sure the level of patient sickness (acuity) is factored into the equation in a meaningful way. As front-line nurses, we know that higher nurse workloads are not just inconvenient for the patients, but can lead to medical errors and risks to patient safety.
Not only is safe staffing the right thing to do; research shows that it is cost-effective. Safe staffing improves nurse performance and patient mortality rates, and reduces turnover rates, nurse burnout, staffing costs, and liability. High turnover rates and high levels of temporary nurse staffing increase the average costs per discharge (cost of inpatient care, including administration) and overall operating costs.
But the staffing levels are not the only concern. Meriter proposes more “flexibility” with their staffing procedures, such as being able to "float" nurses to different, unfamiliar floors at a moment’s notice. Having a nurse float is like asking an English teacher to teach chemistry. When it comes to your loved one’s care, you deserve the very best. We are standing strong during bargaining to protect that right, by ensuring our contract guarantees safe floating so nurses only work in units where they are properly trained and familiar.
A healthy environment for patients requires a healthy workplace for nurses. Nurses are exposed on a daily basis to every disease, virus, epidemic, and pandemic that manifests itself in our society. In order to stay healthy ourselves, we need quality health insurance so we can receive the care necessary to keep ourselves healthy and disease-free. In addition, due to the strain of lifting and moving patients, nurses have high rates of musculoskeletal injuries. This is why we are fighting to keep our current health insurance and short-term medical disability. Unfortunately, Meriter proposes cuts to our health insurance by nearly doubling the employee contribution while increasing co-pays, deductibles, and out of pocket maximum. Nurses who care for others deserve quality and affordable health care for themselves. Meriter doesn’t need to propose any cuts as the Hospital is profitable, making over $48 million in 2012.
We want Meriter to remain a premiere medical center for both patients and workers alike. As nurses, we just want the best for our patients. Over the years, we’ve worked tirelessly to institute policies that work both for caregivers and patients. We hope Meriter will reconsider these bargaining proposals, and continue to live up to its espoused values of care and excellence.
Meriter RN Bargaining Team
Cheryl Eller, RN, Operating Room
Sandy Haak, RN, Operating Room
Bill Schmitz, RN, ICU
Marian Stokes, RN, Birthing Center
Mary Malaney, RN, Surgical Short Stay
Kassia Millar, RN, IMCU