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Marin General Nurses Ratify New 3-Year Pact after Hospital Withdraws Concession Demands

Press Release, 12/15/11

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Win Important Improvements, Landmark Language on Workplace Safety for RNs, Patients

Registered nurses at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Ca. Wednesday night approved a new three-year contract with the local hospital district with important provisions they say will improve patient care at the hospital, help protect nurses and patients, and keep experienced RNs at the bedside.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United represents some 520 RNs at the hospital, which is owned by the Marin Healthcare District.

As a former part of the giant Sutter corporation chain, the settlement, which comes one week before 4,000 RNs are scheduled to hold a one-day strike at eight Bay Area Sutter hospitals, Marin provides a sharp contrast with Sutter.

Unlike Sutter which is demanding some 150 takeaways in contract standards from RNs, Marin officials withdrew onerous concession demands, instead choosing to work with the nurses on a fair agreement, which, nurses say, was critical to reaching an agreement on a new contract.

“Safe patient care and nurse-to patient staffing are always paramount in our negotiations,” said Barbara Ryan, a Marin General RN, who works in pediatrics and the intensive care nursery.

“Our contract settlement is a result of the strength and unity of the nurses, who fought back against the unwarranted takeaways pushed by MGH management that were aimed at the heart of our ability to provide safe patient care,” said Ryan.  

“We were also successful in holding the line on major healthcare cuts and for the first time, workplace safety measures, which we hope will be a model for the Bay Area Sutter hospitals.  It was the willingness and solidarity of the nurses at Marin General to fight for the public that carried the day and that averted a strike.”

Marin officials agreed to pull proposed reductions in health and retirement coverage for the RNs, including a proposal that would have cost RNs an additional $3,000 per year in health coverage for the nurses and their families.

Instead, Marin RNs won improvements across the board, including 3 percent pay increases annually, a strengthened voice on safe staffing concerns, and significant new protocols on workplace safety for nurses and patients.

On staffing, the RN staffing committee, elected by their peers, will now be able to press management for adjustments and improvements in the patient classification system that assesses individual patient illness, an important component, along with state mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, in determining safe staffing.

On workplace safety, the Marin RNs achieved a significant breakthrough with the hospital’s commitment to implement and maintain safety and security measures that help prevent acts of violence and aggression, identify potential risk factors associated with violent or aggressive acts, and evaluate and make needed changes to safety and security protocols and policies when incidents occur.

Further, the hospital agreed meet with CNA RN representatives to review hospital safety protocols and procedures and discuss improvements, and offer appropriate counseling for nurses if incidents occur.

RNs consider the workplace safety language a model in hospital contracts, especially at a time when incidents have been increasing, and many hospitals have stalled or refused to address inadequate safety standards that put nurses, patients, and families of patients at potential risk.

Sutter, for example, has refused to consider a similar proposal at its hospitals, even after incidents, including the attack on a nurse at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland last month.

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