Cooper, Englewood Nurses ratify enforceable safe staffing ratios, and economic gains - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Cooper, Englewood Nurses ratify enforceable safe staffing ratios, and economic gains

HMH Palisades negotiations continue; Strike looms

HPAE Local 5030 at Palisades Medical Center will return to the bargaining table with Hackensack Meridian Health

An overwhelming number of HPAE nurses at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and Cooper University Health Care have ratified new contracts with enforceable staffing ratios and substantial wage increases. Safe staffing ratios will go a long way, in both hospitals, to solving the chronic staffing crisis of retention that has plagued hospitals across New Jersey and the nation.

Meanwhile, negotiations will resume at Palisades Medical Center between HPAE Local 5030 healthcare workers and the hospital’s owner, Hackensack Meridian Health, over those very same standards.

HPAE President Debbie White, RN, hailed the achievements at Englewood and Cooper and urged HMH to join those employers in helping create solutions to benefit patients as well as their workers. “Enforceable staffing ratios mean limiting the number of patients a nurse can care for at any given time,” White said.

Nurse to patient ratios have been shown to improve patient satisfaction scores and outcomes, decrease patient deaths and decrease stress and burnout of staff. The overall quality of care will always be improved with safe staffing levels.

“We congratulate Englewood and Cooper for agreeing with their nurses on this safe staffing language. In both hospitals, ratios will lead to improved reimbursement and less turnover of staff so safe staffing also saves hospitals money. Hackensack Meridian has failed to recognize what is best for patients, for staff and for their own financial interests,” White added.

Negotiations will resume at on Thursday, June 6, while HPAE Local 5030 continue to reserve their right to hand in a 10-day strike notice to HMH if they see no path forward .

Tara Rojo, president of HPAE Local 5030 at Palisades Medical Center, said the staff at the hospital want HMH as a partner in setting standards for the future that will help healthcare workers there put their training into use caring for patients in the best, safest way possible.

“What we’re getting from HMH in negotiations has not been respectful of our professional or the welfare of patients and workers,” Rojo said. “Safe staffing ratios should be paramount for HMH so that we can retain the staff we have and recruit new ones. It is sad they don’t seem to see things the way we do.”

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.

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.

Doris Bell, a Registered Nurse, and president of HPAE Local 5118 at Cooper University Health Care, praised the resolve of her local’s 1,500 Registered Nurses to finding a solution that help them care for their patients better.

“I am really proud of what we achieved here for our patients,” Bell said. “I just think the accountability that we’ve written into this contract will not only help our patients get the best care from us, but it will also help lessen the stress of very difficult, emotionally draining work.”

HPAE Local 5004 President Alice Barden, RN, said the new standards in the new contract with Englewood Hospital and Medical Center is actually fitting because the Union that eventually became the Health Professional and Allied Employees started at Englewood Hospital 50 years ago.

“We began transforming the lives of New Jersey patients then and, with this new contract, we will continue changing the lives of patients across this region as well as in our state.”

Both newly ratified contracts have secured some of the strongest safe staffing union contract language in each of the hospital’s regions. The Englewood Nurses’ contract is 1 RN to 5 patients and the Cooper Nurses contract is set at 1 RN to 4-5 patients In both contracts, the ratios in the Critical Care units will be 1 RN to 2 patients with the critical care ratios in Cooper extending across the hospital to any unit where there is a critical care patient. Englewood also has other ratios in their contract as well.

An additional change in both contracts is that the staffing ratios will be enforced through the grievance and arbitration process, and Englewood’s contract includes expedited arbitration staffing grievances.


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