SamHealth Negotiations With Nurses Stall, Third Party Sought

Last week, nurses at Samaritan Regional Medical Center held an informational picket outside the hospital – their goal was to inform the public of understaffing, and the strain on nurses working there.

According to Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) Communications Manager Kevin Mealy, the picket was a huge success, with a turnout of around 500. Mealy says that “It was encouraging to see the community stand behind nurses.”  ONA is the union representing the nurses in ongoing labor negotiations with the hospital.

As part of the contract renegotiation, the ONA is looking to place limits on mandatory call beyond normal hours at Good Samaritan. Mealy says that nurses at the hospital sometimes work 50 or more extra hours over a month to make up for the staffing shortages.

ONA is also calling for the end of Good Samaritan’s “buddy system.” In order to make up for nurses on legally required breaks, the hospital reassigns patients to other active nurses, doubling the amount of patients under their care from the recommended safe limit of 5. Jacqueline Dillon, an ONA board member and nurse at Good Samaritan, says that “The hospital’s ‘buddy system’ puts nurses and patients in impossible situations. One nurse can’t care for 10 patients at a time. It’s not safe for nurses or patients.”

Samaritan Regional Health Center Responds

“Call is a challenging and expected part of the medical profession. It is necessary to provide urgent and emergent services to meet the needs of our community,” said Good Samaritan spokesman Ian Rollins.

“Nurses are compensated for time on call, and at a higher hourly rate when they are called back to work. Nurses and management work collaboratively to create schedules and workload to provide safe and quality patient care. Nurses are scheduled at most for 40 hours per week and may choose to pick up additional shifts. All overtime hours are compensated at time-and-a-half base rate, plus any applicable differentials.”

There has been one negotiation session since the picket on September 16. By Mealy’s account, no significant progress was made, and a third-party arbiter is being brought in. According to Rollins, “Hospital leadership is committed to reach an agreement that can be ratified by the nurses as soon as possible for the benefit of our staff and patients.”

By Brandon Urey