Sutter Santa Rosa RNs Reach Agreement with Hospital

No Takeaway Pact Shows Sharp Contrast with Other Sutter Facilities – Nurses Win Improvements in Workplace Safety, Economic Standards

CALIFORNIA–(ENEWSPF)–February 2, 2012. Registered nurses at Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa have reached a tentative agreement with hospital officials on a new collective bargaining contract that provides for improvements that nurses say will help keep experienced RNs at the bedside, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United announced today.

Perhaps most significantly, the hospital agreed to withdraw demands for reductions in nurses’ standards and patient protections, which opened the door to an agreement and provides a sharp contrast with the hard-line stance taken by Sutter corporate executives who have provoked two strikes by Sutter RNs at other Bay Area hospitals. A similar decision to abandon proposed takeaways prompted a settlement in December at a former Sutter hospital, Marin General in Greenbrae, Marin County.

The Santa Rosa pact must still be ratified by Santa Rosa RNs who will vote on the proposed agreement Tuesday. CNA represents some 350 RNs at the hospital.

“This settlement should be a signal to Sutter executives in Sacramento and at other Sutter hospitals that they can end their war against their nurses, and achieve fair agreements that protect patients and respect the rights and standards of the RNs who are the frontline of care delivery. It’s time for them to understand that message and demonstrate a commitment to working with the nurses, not against them,” said CNA co-president Deborah Burger, RN, a Sonoma County resident.

In addition to holding the line on present contract standards, the RNs won important improvements. One example is strengthened workplace safety protocols to ensure a more effective response from management to inadequate safety standards, an issue Sutter has refused to address at several other hospitals, including Alta Bates Summit Medical Center where a nurse was assaulted by a patient last fall.  

Additionally, the RNs won gains in contract provisions governing medical leave, seniority rights to protect long-term experienced RNs, improvements on clinical educational leave, in contrast to demands by other Sutter hospitals to erode RN clinical education, and across-the-board pay increases of 7 percent over 30 months.

“We are delighted to have won a new contract that preserves a high standard of patient care that was at the core of our proposals,” said Toril Hayden, a medical surgical RN and nurse negotiator. “The nurses were also able to keep affordable healthcare coverage for ourselves and our families, which is of utmost importance to our RNs who work at the bedside every day.   We also now have a workplace violence protection policy, which is essential in today’s hospital settings where such incidents are on the rise.”

Sutter Santa Rosa also withdrew demands for takeaways in significant areas affecting patient care delivery and the nurses’ health coverage. On patient care, most significantly, the hospital had proposed changes that would have reduced the ability of charge nurses, who make clinical assignments for their unit, to advocate for patients while increasing their own patient loads. On health coverage for nurses and their families, the hospital had insisted on nearly doubling RNs’ out-of-pocket costs for health benefits.

 “At the beginning of our contract talks, Sutter talked about ‘shared sacrifice,'” said nurse negotiator Laura Hinerfeld, RN, a critical care RN at Sutter Santa Rosa. “Nurses don’t believe in sacrificing patient safety or professionalism for profits.  We fought to maintain our nurse-to-patient safe staffing ratios and break relief provisions, all of which Sutter tried to weaken. Our nurses stood together to win a fair contract that allows us to continue to practice our profession at the highest, safest standards of care.”


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