Press Release

Ascension Saint Agnes nurses demand hospital accept ‘Patients First,’ staffing enforcement policies

Balitmore nurses rally in front of Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital

Registered nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland will rally on Thursday, June 20, in support of “Patients First” and staffing protections, which they have proposed to hospital management during contract negotiations. The nurses, who are members of National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU), have been in negotiations since January 18, 2024.

“Nurses are fighting for ‘Patients First’ protections in our contract because they are essential safeguards for our patients and the community we serve,” said Nicki Horvat, RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit and member of the bargaining team.

Additionally, St. Agnes nurses are calling on Ascension to accept their proposals to improve safe staffing and, subsequently, nurse retention. Nearly 20 percent of nurses at St. Agnes began employment at the hospital after January 1 of this year. Meanwhile, just over a third of nurses have more than four years of experience at the hospital. 

“Safe staffing puts patients and our community’s health first,” said Robin Buckner, RN in the Vascular Access Team and member of the bargaining team. “Without safe staffing protections and enforcements in our contracts, Saint Agnes nurses will be unable to provide the level of care our patients and our community deserve. By making working conditions more sustainable, safe staffing protections and enforcements would also help retain more experienced nurses, who are essential for the hospital’s delivery of quality care.”

Who: Registered nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes
What: Rally for safe patient care and “Patients First” contract
When: Thursday, June 20, 8:00 a.m. ET
Where: Ascension Saint Agnes, 900 S. Caton Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21229

Saint Agnes nurses’ “Patients First” proposal includes Ascension’s commitment to maintain all facilities and services within the community for the duration of the contract and that any replacement be “equally accessible.” It also includes patient protections against lawsuits for the resolution of billing disputes and against surprise billing or excess charges.

A January 2024 report from National Nurses United found that Ascension cut a quarter of its labor and delivery units in the past decade amidst a nationwide rise in pregnancy- and childbirth-related mortality. These cuts drastically impacted metropolitan areas and areas with hater rates of low-income, Black, and Latine patients.

Horvat, RN said, “Considering Ascension’s pattern of closing obstetrics and labor and delivery services around the country, we believe these ‘Patients First’ protections need to be ensured through our contracts.”

In November 2023, Saint Agnes nurses voted to join NNOC/NNU, making Saint Agnes the first private-sector hospital in the city to unionize and the fourth Ascension hospital to unionize in 13 months. The historic surge of organizing by nurses at Ascension-owned hospitals is driven by the stark contrast between Ascension’s practices and its purported mission of providing “spiritually-centered holistic care” and “serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable.” National investigative reporting has also revealed how the chain’s egregious staffing practices led to poor patient care, how it has prioritized expanding into wealthier communities despite lucrative tax breaks to provide care for underserved communities, and how it is “moonlighting as a private equity firm.” 

The Catholic hospital system is one of the largest in the country with 140 hospitals in 19 states and also one of the wealthiest, with cash reserves, an investment company, and a private equity operation worth billions of dollars – and, because of its nonprofit status, is exempt from paying federal taxes. Tax records indicate Ascension’s CEO took home more than $13 million in compensation in 2021.

NNOC/NNU represents more than 500 registered nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes.

National Nurses Organizing Committee is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates also include California Nurses Association, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.