Providence nurses turn to leafleting to air contract grievance

EVERETT — Registered nurses at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, whose contract expired in October, are taking their case to the public through informational leafleting.

Money, nurses say, is not the primary issue. Staffing levels are.

Leafleting took place Tuesday on the hospital’s Colby and Pacific avenue campuses. Another leafleting event is scheduled for Feb. 11, said Tom Geiger, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 21. The nurses are working under a contract extension that runs through Feb. 24, he said.

The union represents 1,400 of the hospital’s registered nurses.

Negotiations have been ongoing for five months, Geiger said. Management and union representatives met with a federal mediator Jan. 27. Additional talks are scheduled Feb. 17 and 24, he said.

“I’ve heard stories of members saying they’ve been in situations where they feel like they have too many things going on and feel like they’re short-staffed,” he said. “They do not feel like their employer has been willing to hear that concern.”

Barbara Hyland-Hill, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, said the hospital “is very committed to making sure nurses have a voice and a place to raise their issues and concerns.”

There has been a significant increase in the number of patients being treated at the hospital, she said.

Year-over-year comparisons for the last quarters of 2013 and 2014 show in-patient days increased by 8.91 percent; emergency visits increased by 5.63 percent, according to Elizabeth Brophy, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

The trend of increasing numbers of patients has been seen at other hospitals along the I-5 corridor, Hyland-Hill said.

Extra nurses have been called in to work at the Everett hospital, but with high patient volume, it’s been a challenge “assuring we’ve got an adequate number of nurses,” Hyland-Hill said.

She said she is hopeful that a settlement can be reached with the nurses during the next two negotiating sessions.

Danielle Percival, a union member who works as a head nurse on the night shift, said the three main concerns are patient care, safety and appropriate staffing levels.

Percival said she, too, is hopeful an agreement can be reached. “We love our job and the people we work with,” she said. “We just want the tools to help the public as best as we can.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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