HPAE announces overwhelming strike-vote approvals at three large New Jersey Hospitals - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

HPAE announces overwhelming strike-vote approvals at three large New Jersey Hospitals

Contracts expire on Friday at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Cooper University Health Care, and HMH Palisades Medical Center

If unable to strike deals, HPAE members ready to hand in 10-day strike notice

Leaders of HPAE locals negotiating contract renewals at three large New Jersey hospital systems say members have authorized them to go out on strike if they are unable to win enforceable safe staffing ratios in their new contracts.

Contracts at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Cooper University Health Care, and HMH Palisades Medical Center expire on Friday, May 31st.

“Unfortunately, HMH refuses to even consider safe staff to patient ratios as an option to improve patient care,” said Tara Rojo, president of HPAE Local 5030 at Palisades Medical Center, which is owned by Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH). “In a perfect world, HMH would be fighting for the same thing we want. Safe staffing ratios would allow me and my colleagues to provide care that will help our patients have a better outcome.”

HPAE President Debbie White, RN, said enforceable staffing ratios mean limiting the number of patients a nurse can care for at any given time.  Lower patient assignments like we’ve seen in California over the past 20 years lead to better patient outcomes, lower patient deaths and increased patient satisfaction scores. For nurses, lower patient assignments reduce workplace stress and burnout and improve retention of staff. Finally, the decrease in turnover costs and increase in reimbursements will ultimately lead to a financial benefit for hospitals.

White took pains to point out that while the state is in a chronic staffing crisis, it is a crisis of retention of nurses and other healthcare workers.  In fact, New Jersey has 147,000 nurses licensed and only about half are working.  Hospitals have become revolving doors for nurses because New Jersey has a shortage of staff willing to work under the current stressful conditions.

White said HPAE and a coalition of other unions are also pushing Trenton legislators to pass the “Patient Protection and Safe Staffing Act (S2700/A3683) into a law mandating safe patient-to-staff ratios in New Jersey hospitals. Sponsored by Senator Vitale and Assemblywoman Quijano, the resulting law will include staffing ratios for nursing and non-licensed assistive personnel, with ratios set based on the needs of specific medical units.

HPAE Local 5004 President Alice Barden, RN, of Englewood Hospital & Medical Center, said safe staffing ratios should not even be a hard sell for hospital operators.

“Safe Staffing ratios will help us recruit new nurses as well as retain the nurses we already have so they can grow in their profession to train the next generation of nurses while providing care to families in our communities,” she said.

Barden added that research shows mandated nurse-to-patient safe-staffing ratios lead to high patient satisfaction in hospitals and that nurses are not only safer, but that they suffer less burnout.

Doris Bell, a Registered Nurse, and president of HPAE Local 5118 at Cooper University Health Care said her local of 1,500 Registered Nurses are dedicated to caring for their patients.

“We need to be able to care for our patients, to help them recover and return them to their loved ones. That is what motivates us every day when we come to work,” she said.

“Let me state clearly: our nurses are united in this fight to hold Cooper accountable,” Bell said. “We are determined to improve patient care by setting safe staffing ratios across our hospital, ones that can be enforced through our contract.

“Staffing based on these ratios gives us time to provide the care that we are trained to provide, including being able to sit with a patient, alleviate some of their fears and provide them and their family members with information on how to continue their care after they leave the hospital.”


For more information, contact: Michael Allen, (646) 436-7556.