Nurses picketed outside Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center Wednesday afternoon to draw attention to hospital contract proposals they contend could adversely affect patient safety.
The pickets represented more than 1,000 nurses negotiating with the medical center for a new labor contract. The nurses have been negotiating with the hospital for months on a new contract.
The informational pickets, who marched under the auspices of the Washington State Nurses Association, said two proposals from hospital management could compromise care at the hospital.
One proposal would eliminate monetary penalties the hospital now pays if it calls back nurses to duty after a full shift.
Linda Burbank, a St. Joseph nurse and a member of the negotiating committee, said if the hospital is successful in eliminating premium pay for nurses called back to duty, it could routinely rely on nurses to work shifts when they’re already tired from completing their regular duties.
The second proposal would allow the hospital to transfer nurses between care units of the hospital without proper training and experience, the nurses contend.
“Every nurse here cares deeply about giving our patients safe and quality care, but the skills you
need in one area of clinical expertise are not the same as the ones you use in a different clinical area.
Procedures are different, equipment is different, and most importantly patient needs are different,” said Dian Davis, a St. Joseph nurse.
Scott Thompson, a hospital spokesman, said the medical center wants to reach “a fair and competitive” settlement with its nurses.
“We value all of the work our nurses do,” he said. “We, too, are focused on patient care and safety.”
The St. Joseph informational picket line is the second in Tacoma in recent weeks. Nurses marched at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital three weeks ago to create public support for a new contract.
St. Joseph nurses have not yet threatened a work stoppage nor has the hospital threatened to lock them out.