Victory for TX Nurses
More than 1,500 RNs Win First Contracts at Four HCA-Affiliated Hospitals
RNs in El Paso, Corpus Christi & Brownsville Give Thumbs Up
In a major win for nurses, patients and three Texas communities, registered nurses in El Paso, Corpus Christi and Brownsville gave final approval to contracts yesterday in first-ever collective bargaining agreements. The agreements make significant strides for working conditions for RNs, patient care standards and the quality of care at the four facilities. The contracts cover RNs at Corpus Christi Medical Center, two El Paso facilities -- -- Las Palmas Medical Center and Del Sol Medical Center – and at Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville. All are members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas/National Nurses United (NNU) -- the largest professional association and union of registered nurses in the country, with 175,000 members.
Ratifications of the contracts were completed last night in what nurses see as important improvements in patient care protections and enhanced professional and economic standards that will help keep experienced RNs at the bedside.
"Texas took a big step forward in terms of patient care standards with these agreements," said Fred Flores, RN, of Corpus Christi Medical Center’s Emergency Department,. “This is a victory for quality healthcare at Las Palmas, and at the other HCA-affiliated hospitals and the communities they serve,” said Ann James, RN, of the Intensive Care Unit at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso.
Nashville-based HCA is the largest operator of for-profit hospitals in the U.S. and, with these agreements, now has nurses at 19 affiliated hospitals covered by a collective bargaining agreement with NNU: 10 in Florida hospitals, 2 in California, as well as one each in Nevada, Missouri and Kansas.
In each of these hospital contracts, RNs were able to negotiate for a Professional Practice Committee (PPC): an elected staff RN committee charged with making recommendations to management on improving patient care. Along with PPCs, the contracts also include patient acuity-based staffing levels: RN-to-patient staffing level and acuity established in policy and enforceable by newly-negotiated staffing committee. The four Texas RN staffing committees are a hallmark of these HCA-affiliated hospital contracts, where bedside RNs will serve on committees with management to review staffing issues in the hospital, ensure compliance with staffing matrices and recommend changes.
“It took time,” said Adriana Soto, RN, who works the Progressive Care Unit at Valley Regional Medical Center. “But in the end we were able to reach a settlement that will solidify our RN organization, and provides our patients in Brownsville with quality care.”
“For us, having an acknowledged role in the standards, for patient care, is a must-win in a contract,” said Maria Navarro, RN, of Del Sol Medical Center’s Labor & Delivery Unit. “We are professionals who work at the bedside and patients count on us. Management gains from our expertise. We need to be able to share it and management needs to be listening. We have achieved that in our new contract.”
Procedures for resolving employment disputes were a high priority for the RNs, such as just cause protections, appropriate grievance and floating procedures, and seniority protections in layoffs and job bidding. All were addressed in the new agreements.