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Nurses’ strike averted by new, 2-year contract

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The 235 nurses at Mary Immaculate who had been without a contract since...

By Adam Kramer

The nurses at Mary Immaculate Hospital overwhelmingly approved a new two-year contract last Thursday after two marathon negotiating sessions and averted a strike at the facility.

The 235 nurses at Mary Immaculate who had been without a contract since Jan. 31, 2000 came to a preliminary agreement with the hospital on Jan. 27 after a 23-hour negotiating session and finalized the contract on Jan. 31 after nine hours of talks.

“We made a lot of great progress with the contract and made significant inroads,” said Mark Genovese, a spokesman for the New York State Nurses Association. “There were improvements, but we want to finish the job on staffing and 12-hour shifts or there will be a lot of trouble when we sit down again in 18 months.”

Mary Immaculate Hospital did not return repeated phone calls for comment on the new nurses’ contract.

The new contract will expire on Feb. 1. 2003 and the agreement came in just under the Feb. 2 strike deadline, he said.

The contract calls for a committee to be formed to establish staffing guidelines on each unit at the hospital. Genovese said the committee will start meeting later in the month and is required to finish its work within 30 days. If the committee’s job is not finished within the allotted time, the nurses have the right to take the issue to dispute resolution.

“We are disappointed because the hospital still needs unit staffing numbers,” he said. “The hospital management wanted to use the same language that was put into the St. Vincents Hospital’s contract. The language in the contract still leaves the door open for the hospital to continue to drag its feet.”

Mary Immaculate Hospital is a 261-bed acute care facility at 152-11 89th Ave. in Jamaica. The hospital — part of the Saint Vincents Catholic Medical Centers — treats all the medical needs of its patients.

There are not enough nurses so each nurse is often responsible for 18 to 22 patients at a time, Genovese said. He said the normal staffing ratio is one nurse to 14 patients.

According to the facility’s registered nurses, the number of patients each nurse is responsible for is “dangerously high.” They complained that due to the patient load, a nurse does not have the time to properly complete her job. The nurses said they cannot administer medication, pick up lab reports or monitor patients.

Genovese said the contract will increase the nurses’ salary by 3 percent each year in the two-year contract, which would keep the facility’s nurses competitive with their counterparts at other New York hospitals.

“The nurses prevented management from eliminating compensatory time, which the hospital had sought to do until the last day of negotiations,” he said. “The hospital also dropped its demand for further concessions.”

NYSNA believes the new contract will improve the working conditions at the hospital and attract nurses to Mary Immaculate Hospital, he said.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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