Palisades Medical nurses settle with Hackensack Meridian, averting strike over staff ratio - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Palisades Medical nurses settle with Hackensack Meridian, averting strike over staff ratio

Taken from

By Scott Fallon

June 8, 2024

Two weeks after threatening to walk off the job, the union representing 800 nurses at Palisades Medical Center has agreed to a contract with hospital owner Hackensack Meridian, union leaders and hospital executives announced Saturday.

Although details of the tentative agreement were not released, union leaders said they achieved a “historic and groundbreaking” deal that will lead to better staffing ratios at the North Bergen hospital. It will ease burnout by nurses, thousands of whom have changed professions or retired early in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the union said.

“The safe staffing improvements and wage increases recognize the importance in protecting patients and respecting health care workers,” Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals & Allied Employees union, said in a statement. “The negotiated language will go far in recruiting and retaining the hospital’s most valuable asset, the staff.”

Nurses are scheduled to vote on the contract on Wednesday, union leaders said.

The agreement comes less than a week after nurses at Englewood Health and Cooper University Medical Center in Camden ratified new contracts that included lower staff-to-patient ratios.

Ben Goldstein, a Hackensack Meridian spokesman, said he hopes the nurses and other technical workers at Palisades will sign off on the new contract. “It continues to support excellent care for patients while providing team members with competitive wages and benefits in a safe work environment,” he said in a statement.

More than 90% of Palisades nurses along with their counterparts at Englewood Health and Cooper University authorized a strike vote two weeks ago if they didn’t get enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios.

Staffing has been an issue at hospitals for years, but the COVID pandemic exacerbated the problem. Nearly a third of nurses left direct patient care at New Jersey hospitals from 2020 to 2023, according to HPAE, the state’s largest health care workers union.

The contract with Englewood hospital reduced the nurse-to-patient ratio from 1-to-6 to 1-to-5. The sides also agreed that any deviation from that standard will be subject to binding arbitration instead of mediation, which was not binding.

The new contract at Cooper calls for an average of 1 nurse to 4-5 patients instead of 1-to-5 ratios in the medical, surgical, oncology and telemetry departments. It requires a 1-to- 2 ratio for any critical care patient, no matter where they are in the hospital.

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