RNs at 10 HCA Florida Hospitals Approve New Pact
Cite Health and Safety, Other Improvements
Registered nurses at 10 hospitals along Florida’s Gulf Coast and in Central Florida have overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year collective bargaining agreement that they say includes important improvements in health and safety protections for nurses and patients and other substantial gains.
“This is a strong agreement that will improve protections and conditions for our patients, and our communities, as well as enhance standards for the nurses,” said Osceola RN Marissa Lee, who is also a board member of National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, which represents the Florida RNs.
The agreement covers NNOC-Florida/NNU RNs who work at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Largo Medical Center, Medical Center of Trinity, Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville, Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee, and St. Petersburg General Hospital.
Among highlights of the new agreement are improvements in health and safety protections for patients and nurses, especially with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic; new language to promote diversity and equity at the hospitals; protection of existing health coverage with no cuts; and enhanced economic security for the RNs that will assist with retention of experienced RNs and recruitment of new nurses.
Pandemic safety provisions
The Florida RNs struggled throughout the pandemic to ensure proper infectious disease control safety measures, including optimal personal protective equipment (PPE) to limit being infected and spreading the virus to patients, coworkers, and family members.
Under this pact, HCA stipulates that all nurses will be guaranteed access “to the highest level of personal protections,” with “adequate supplies of single-use PPE.” In addition, nurses caring for suspected infected patients will receive the same standard of PPE provided for those caring for confirmed infected patients, and the employer will ensure free Covid-19 tests will be available after exposure.
“These are critical, binding steps that address some of the most serious problems we have confronted throughout the pandemic,” said Christina Hison, RN at Central Florida Regional Hospital. “With the continued spread of the virus, especially the now-prevalent Delta variant which is far more transmissible, it is essential that we have proper safety measures in place for Covid-19 that serve as a model for the future infectious diseases sure to come.”
A focus on safe staffing
Safe staffing has long been a priority for the RNs. Under the contract, each facility will convene additional staffing committee meetings to address specific concerns about staffing standards and the assignment of nurses to other units beyond their clinical expertise and experience. The existing RN Professional Practice Committee will also have added ability to meet with managerial department heads on patient care concerns.
“These provisions provide new mechanisms for our collective voice to press for the highest standard of care and protection for our patients,” said Samantha Brown, RN at Medical Center of Trinity.
The RNs also welcomed economic improvements, and protection of health coverage and pensions that “are essential to keeping our most experienced RNs at the bedside for our patients. Retention and recruitment are a major priority for quality care now, and for the future of health care for our communities,” said Blake Medical Center RN Candice Cordero.
All Florida RNs will earn pay increases of at least 2 percent in the first year and up to 19 percent over the three-year pact, depending on length-of-service pay scales and specialty clinical expertise, as well as additional compensation for nurses when needed for critical staffing shortages and when called in for needed extra shifts.
Among other contract provisions:
- A new RN committee to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on race, gender, age, and sexual orientation in hospital recruitment, retention, promotion, and training. It will also address issues of structural racism in the nursing profession and barriers to practice, and ensure a nursing workforce that is reflective of the community.
- Protection of current health coverage and retirement benefits, with no cuts, for the life of the contract.
- Paid time off to vote in elections.
National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC)-Florida is an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU), which represents 12,000 HCA RNs at 20 HCA hospitals from Florida to California. Overall, NNU represents 175,000 RNs nationwide.