California Nurses Association Announces Sweeping Gains For 4,000 RNs At 11 Catholic Hospitals From Los Angeles To Redding

OAKLAND, Calif., July 13 /PRNewswire/ -- About 4,000 Registered Nurses at 11 Catholic Healthcare West hospitals have won sweeping improvements in patient care protections, retirement security, and economic gains in a major contract agreement announced today by the California Nurses Association.

The tentative settlement brings RNs at the 11 hospitals into a statewide master contract that now unites 8,000 RNs at 21 facilities in the largest Catholic hospital system in the Western United States, all represented by CNA, the nation's largest independent RN organization. The new pact covers RNs in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, San Bernardino, the Central Coast, Redding, and Grass Valley in the Sierra foothills.

Raising standards for all RNs

"This is a dramatic achievement for RNs and patients," said CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. "It will substantially enhance the environment for patient care delivery in CHW hospitals and provide RNs a more effective voice to advocate for their patients and their colleagues."

"The collective power of 8,000 CHW RNs," DeMoro said, "will have enormous influence in raising the bar in RN and patient care standards and health care policy both in California, and in other states where CHW operates."

At a time of increased corporate concentration in the healthcare industry, CNA is working to standardize conditions for RNs in the largest hospital systems, and now has master agreements with CHW, Kaiser Permanente, Tenet Healthcare, and the University of California.

  Key provisions of the agreement include:
  -- A strong ban on the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime. It is
     strictly prohibited except in cases of a publicly declared emergency,
     situations involving mass casualties, or limited internal emergencies,
     such as a fire or building collapse.
  -- Across the board pay increases ranging from 18% to 29%, plus additional
     equity improvements based on length of service.
  -- Increased guaranteed pensions, with a higher rate of benefits for long
     term RNs who have many years of service in CHW. The pension is also
     portable -- any CHW RN who transfers to another CNA-represented CHW
     hospital will be able to bring with them the full pension credits they
     have earned.
  -- Employer-paid retiree health benefits for RNs who retire at age 55.
  -- Improved protections against unsafe "floating" -- the assignment of RNs
     to clinical areas for which they do not have specialty expertise,
     training and orientation. The new language incorporates policies of the
     state Board of Registered Nursing which stipulate that the RN will
     determine if he or she has the clinical competency needed in the
     assigned clinical area.
  -- Assurance that temporary RN staff, known as registry or travelers, will
     be called off work prior to cancellation of any regular scheduled RNs.
  -- Resolution of safe staffing disputes by a neutral third party
     arbitrator.

Some elements, including the pension and retiree health were first negotiated between CNA and CHW in an agreement reached in July, 2003 for hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz, and later extended to CHW RNs in Stockton. Now all 21 hospitals are incorporated into the master accord.

CNA is especially proud, DeMoro noted, to continue its record of the past three years in providing additional retirement security for RNs "who historically have had little or no retirement protection after a lifetime of caring for others."

Stronger mandatory overtime protections for patients

New contract components include tougher restrictions on mandatory overtime and floating, the preference for regular staff in work call-off. The overtime language is especially notable following the release of a new national study in the journal Health Affairs last week documenting a significant increase in preventable medical errors when RNs are required to work excessive hours.

DeMoro placed the CHW pact in the context of statewide efforts by CNA to end the threat to patients posed by mandatory overtime. CNA has negotiated bans in most of its contracts, and continues to strengthen the language in negotiations. "When RNs are mandated to work well beyond their scheduled shift, they may no longer have the stamina and mental alertness to provide the quality care their patients need," she said.

California Nurses Association

CONTACT: Charles Idelson of California Nurses Association,+1-510-273-2246 or +1-415-559-8991 (cell)

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