Nurses reach new contractual agreement

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USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, Calif., ratified a contract Thursday, effective immediately, with the California Nurses Association. CNA represents more than 300 registered nurses at the hospital.

The deal comes after RNs employed at the hospital staged an information picket and car caravan on February 23, for understaffing and inadequate coronavirus protection. More than 90 RNs from various hospital departments used their work breaks to picket.

USC-VHH has experienced a 40% turnover rate since 2019. One of the major concerns of participating RNs was the shortage of nurses willing to risk their license by working under conditions that could have brought them into contact with coronavirus positive patients in hospital corridors. Due to understaffing in the wards, several units were receiving and housing patients from other units, which put additional pressure on the workers.

After contract negotiations were abruptly halted at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the nurses signed a two-year contract. As the contract drew to a close, the nurses demonstrated their demands in hopes of establishing a new contract that would retain and recruit experienced nurses. Negotiations for the new contract, said a union representative, resumed last December.

“The past two years have been especially challenging, and our registered nurses have responded with compassion, skill and resilience,” Chief Nursing Officer Theresa Murphy said in a Friday press release from USC’s Keck Medicine.

The new contract includes safer floating practices, annual salary increases, a new infectious disease task force and safer practices for coronavirus patients, including negative pressure rooms and personal protective equipment additional.

“As we enter the third year of the pandemic, this new contract will help ensure the safety and health of everyone in our hospital,” said Esther Hathaway, critical care nurse at Verdugo Hills Hospital, in a CNA/NNU press release on Friday. “Some of the key wins we fought for will make our hospital a better place to work for nurses, which will also make it a better place to work for patients.”

The contract will be in place until December 31, 2024.

“We fought for these victories,” ER registered nurse Lisa Harris said in the CNA/NNU press release. “We have shown management that we are united with one voice, that we are done risking our licenses and that we are done risking patient safety.”

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