Nurses Agree on New Contract with Virginia Hospital

Nurses were prepared to walk out on job

Nurses working at Essentia Health – Virginia Medical Center agreed to a new three year contract on Tuesday after difficult negotiations resulted in nurses working for more than three months without a contract. Nurses voted overwhelmingly to pre-authorize a strike at the facility prior to the agreement to send the message that they expect Essentia to support nurses and patients.

“We are grateful to nurses for sticking together during a very difficult process,” said Glenn Anderson, RN and Co-Chair of the bargaining unit, “and their support showed Essentia that we expect the employer to honor their promise of creating a a working environment that would attract and retain nurses and protect the quality care patients deserve.” In 2011, Essentia management asked for nurses’ support when it began the affiliation process of Virginia Regional Medical Center, and nurses obliged under the promise that a new ownership structure would improve patient care.

The bargaining unit of 120 nurses, represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, has been without a contract since July 31, 2013. The unit of nurses voted Tuesday to pre-authorize the strike if an agreement could not be reached.

“Since negotiations began in August, these nurses have stuck together,” said Anderson. “They’ve showed up in force at negotiating sessions to make their concerns known to the employer directly. We were prepared to walk out if Essentia didn’t fulfill its promise to make a first-rate investment in the care for this community. Virginia deserves nothing less.”

Retention of skilled nurses is important because it positively impacts quality patient care. That investment has proven to pay off. Research conducted by Nursing Solutions, Inc. this year estimates that each percent increase in RN turnover will cost the average hospital an additional $331,800.

The contract will pay nurses 8.25 percent more over three years, improve health benefits, and spell out language that sets standards for enough nurses to be on duty to take care of patients and their conditions in various departments.