Press Release

RNs Reach Settlement at St. Joseph, Eureka Hospital Cite Gains for Patients, Security for RNs

For Immediate Release
March 4, 2010

Registered nurses at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka have achieved a tentative settlement with hospital officials on a new collective bargaining agreement that nurses say bring significant improvements in patient care protections and economic gains for the RNs.

Some 375 St. Joseph Eureka RNs are represented by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC). The agreement between nurse and hospital negotiators, reached in the early morning hours Thursday, must still be ratified by the RNs who will to vote on the proposal in a membership meeting tentatively set for Monday. 

“We are extremely pleased with this agreement which sets new standards for our members, and increased protections for our patients and our community,” said nurse negotiator Susan Johnson, an Obstetrics RN of 25-years at the hospital. “We will strongly recommend it for endorsement by the St. Joseph RNs.”

St. Joseph, Eureka, is part of a larger Catholic hospital chain, St. Joseph Health System (SJHS), and the tentative pact follows a similar agreement won by CNA/NNOC RNs at another SJHS hospital, St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley in Southern California.

At the center of the Eureka pact are new patient care protections, including limits on “floating,” the assignment of nurses to clinical areas where they do not have the appropriate clinical expertise and orientation, and assurance that management will provide break relief for RNs to assure patients are cared for by more rested RNs.

The agreement also commits hospital officials to provide lift teams at all times to reduce patient falls and accidents, along with injuries to nurses.

Additionally, the settlement contains new language, prompted by last fall’s H1N1 swine flu pandemic, to help protect patients and nurses in future epidemics by providing a direct RN voice in emergency preparedness for responding to epidemics and communicable diseases. The language is patterned after groundbreaking terms won by RNs at last fall at two other Catholic hospital systems, Catholic Healthcare West and Daughters of Charity.

Eureka RNs also won substantial economic improvements, including across the board wage increases of 15 percent between now and July, 2012, plus a new longevity bonus for RNs with 30 years experience, an important gain for nurses who have devoted their careers to serving the hospital and the community.

Nurses also hailed a new retiree health program providing post-retirement, employer-paid medical benefits beginning at age 60 for St. Joseph RNs based on years of service, that includes benefits for nurses after age 65.