Nurses would receive up to a 9.5 percent wage hike and better working conditions under a tentative two-year contract hammered out with Providence Medford Medical Center.
The two-year contract will be voted on by 287 registered nurses Saturday. Providence nurses, part of the Oregon Nurses Association, have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2017, but they have been bargaining since before that date.
“I’m really happy this is finally getting done after seven or eight months,” said Kristalyn Matlock, a cardiac nurse. “It will keep us safe and keep our patients safe.”
New nurses would see a 3 percent increase to $35.30 an hour, followed by a 2 percent boost toward the end of the year and another 1 percent in 2019, according to Kevin Mealy, spokesman for the Oregon Nurses Association. Nurses with more experience will see bigger salary increases up to 9.5 percent.
He said the increase will bring Providence nurses to salary parity with nurses at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center and will provide a competitive salary as Oregon anticipates a 6,000-nurse shortage by 2025. The salary increase should help ease the 43 percent annual turnover rate for new nurses.
Since negotiators on both sides have agreed to the tentative changes, the nurse’s ratification Saturday would be the final step in lengthy negotiations.
On April 10, more than 200 nurses and local residents held an informational picket outside Providence after bargaining broke down. A petition signed by 750 residents asked hospital administrators to work with nurses to reach a fair contract agreement.
Bargaining fell apart after the two sides failed to agree on scheduling issues for nurses.
Matlock said the new contract offers more consistent scheduling that will be developed by nurses themselves rather than by administrators.
“It was definitely exactly what we were hoping for and a little bit more,” Matlock said. “Securing the solid scheduling language was a big win for us.”
Under the current contract, nurses say they are overwhelmed and the hospital is so understaffed it can’t meet the needs of patients, causing delays in medications, potential medication errors and delays in treatment for acute-need patients, Matlock said.
It’s also been difficult for nurses trying to juggle their professional and personal lives, particularly those like Matlock who are trying to raise a family.
She said the increased salary for new nurses should help stem the high turnover rate.
“I think it puts us in a competitive position here in Medford,” Matlock said.
In an email statement, Tomi Ryba, chief executive at Providence, said she wouldn’t release any details of the agreement until after the nurses have had an opportunity to review and vote on it.
“We have been confident throughout the bargaining process that this would be possible,” she stated.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.