November 10, 2015
Newark, NJ – With contracts at University Hospital expiring over one year ago, a group of 50 nurses and healthcare workers represented by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) spoke out to the eleven members of the University Hospital Board of Directors at their November 10th meeting during the public comment portion of the agenda.
HPAE Locals 5089 and 5094 represent 1,300 members at University Hospital of Newark, originally part of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), which became a stand-alone hospital with the reorganization of UMDNJ and Rutgers University in 2013. Negotiations between the union and management are ongoing with a meeting scheduled for the first week of December.
“Our members are focused on achieving a contract that includes enforceable infectious disease protocols and safe staffing levels that protects continuity and quality of care for our patients.” said Cynthia McDougall, RN, President of HPAE Local 5089. “The difficult challenges our hospital has faced over the last year should be a wake up call to management. It is time they listen to their employees who are demanding a contract that will set standards so we are ready to care for our patients during a crisis situation.”
According to the union, on October 2, 2015 the Office of Public Employees’ Occupational Safety and Health (OPEOSH) issued citations against University Hospital involving an incident where nurses and other hospital employees were required to care for a patient with Lassa Fever without adequate training and proper protective equipment. The citation came after OPEOSH visited the hospital in August, following a complaint filed by HPAE.
“As health care professionals our top priority is to negotiate a contract which protects patient safety and workers rights,” said Thomas Murphy, President of HPAE Local 5094. “As health care workers we routinely face risks , yet we should not walk blindly into unsafe situations. Our contract must ensure staff will be properly trained and have the necessary equipment so we are prepared and can respond to potentially life threatening illnesses in a manner that is in the best interest of patients and workers.”
The Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) is the largest union of Registered Nurses and health care professionals in New Jersey. Since its founding by Englewood Hospital nurses in 1974, HPAE has expanded across the state and into Southeastern Pennsylvania representing 12,000 nurses, social workers, therapists, technicians, medical researchers, and other health care professionals in hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, blood banks and university research facilities.