St. John’s Hospitals Turns to Mediator to Avert Strike
With contract negotiations between nurses and hospital management at Ventura County's St. John's Regional Medical Center and St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital at an impasse, a federal mediator will be brought in Wednesday to "hammer out a first-ever labor contract," the Los Angeles Times reports. Represented by the Service Employees International Union, the nurses voted last week to authorize a strike, but decided to give negotiators until Nov. 20 to reach an agreement. The union is seeking better pay for nurses, who contend that they are paid $3-$5 less per hour than nurses at other county hospitals. Nurses also maintain that the "pay gap" has created a nursing shortage that requires them to work with "too many patients and work too many overtime hours," which compromises patient safety. In addition, nurses are seeking a "larger role" in hospital policy development. Susan Franks, a nurse for seven years, said, "St. John's seems to think this is just about money. It's about being able to provide safe and quality patient care." Hospital administrators blamed a nationwide nursing shortage for the current staffing issues. Hospital spokesperson Rita O'Connor added that nurses have rejected several of the hospitals' proposals, including a $1.2 million pay raise. Despite the tense negotiations, both sides said they were "optimistic" that a federal mediator will help them reach a resolution (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 11/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.