Health Professionals and Allied Employees
110 Kinderkamack Road
Emerson, NJ 07630
For Immediate Release March 20, 2014
Contact: Jeanne Otersen, 201-280-9279
Winning safe nurse staffing levels for patient care is a top priority for nursing unions currently in contract bargaining talks with two major hospital systems in NJ: Virtua Memorial Hospital of Burlington County and Cooper University Health Care. Both unions are affiliated with the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), NJ’s largest healthcare union of 12,000 nurses and health care workers.
Pointing to numerous studies citing the direct link between nurse staffing levels and patient satisfaction, outcomes, and complication rates, nursing union leaders are pushing for limits on the number of patients assigned to nurses, as well as policies for recruitment and retention of nurses.
Nurses are also looking for protections for their collective bargaining rights as hospitals expand their services and consolidate or merge with other healthcare entities.
“In a rapidly changing health care delivery system, a nurse’s ability to speak up, advocate for safe patient care and negotiate for safe care and safe and secure working conditions is vital. The nurse is the one constant, providing care every day, even while employers merge, sell or expand, and look for new ways to cut costs or increase market-share ,” said Doris Bell, an RN and president of the 1,000 member HPAE local 5118 at Cooper.
At Cooper University Hospital, more than 150 RNs showed up at the first bargaining session to show their support for their union contract. At Virtua, bargaining between the Registered Nurses union and hospital began on Thursday, March 20th. According to Debbie White, President of Local 5105, Virtua Memorial Hospital, "Never have we seen a time where the job of the nurse has been so complicated. In order to care for our patients effectively and meet the demands of healthcare reform, it is imperative that we address the issue of staffing at the table." Both contracts expire on May 31, along with a number of other HPAE union locals in northern NJ.
HPAE has also launched a state-wide campaign for a new safe staffing law to assure safe nurse staffing levels in every hospital in New Jersey. “Our laws governing hospital staffing for patient care have not been updated since 1987 – even while technology and patient care acuities have increased dramatically. Every patient in every hospital in NJ has the right to receive the same high quality of nursing care,” said Ann Twomey, president of the statewide HPAE.
HPAE has scheduled a lobby day for May 27, at which time they plan to present petitions signed by a few thousand RNs and NJ residents asking the NJ Department of Health to add safe staffing to the patients’ bill of rights.