18,000 California Nurses Win Stronger Patient Care, Workplace Protections in New Kaiser Pact

NNU photo

Some 18,000 California registered nurses, members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), who work at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics are voting this week on a new contract. The agreement, reached after months of negotiations, will give the RNs a stronger voice on patient care and provides breakthrough improvements in workplace protections.

The union also called off a scheduled two-day strike this week against Kaiser Permanente.

CNA/NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro praised “the unity of Kaiser RNs and their devotion to assuring the highest level of quality care for patients as well as protections for the nurses who deliver that care.”

The unions said a key to the settlement was the agreement by Kaiser to establish a new committee of direct care RNs and nurse practitioners who will work with management to address the concerns RNs have about care standards in Kaiser facilities. Zenei Cortez, RN, co-president of the CNA, said:

We have an agreement that will strengthen the ability of Kaiser RNs to provide the optimal level of care our patients deserve, while establishing additional security for nurses.

In addition to the new patient care and workplace protection improvements, Kaiser has committed to hiring hundreds of new RNs and to providing training and employment opportunities for new RN graduates. The agreement also provides significant economic gains and additional retirement security.

Read more here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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NNU, AFT Urge Stronger Patient–Worker Protections in Ebola Treatments

NNU, AFT Urge Stronger Patient–Worker Protections in Ebola Treatments

In a letter to President Barack Obama about the growing concern over Ebola in the United States, the National Nurses United (NNU) urged the president to “invoke his executive authority” to order all U.S. hospitals to meet the highest “uniform, national standards and protocols” in order to “safely protect patients, all health care workers and the public.”

Two nurses who cared for an Ebola patient in Dallas who later died have contracted the disease and there have been serious questions raised about that hospital’s protocols and preparedness and concerns if other health care facilities are prepared. In the letter, NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro writes:

Not one more patient, nurse or health care worker should be put at risk due to a lack of health care facility preparedness The United States should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus.

Read more here and here.

At a press conference today, AFT, which represents nurses and other health care professionals, called on all health care facilities to adopt a three-point plan as the core of their response to treating possible Ebola victims and protecting the health care workers who treat them. It includes an infectious disease control protocol and worker protections; developing a dedicated treatment team of willing staff members—doctors, nurses and support staff and providing front-line health care workers a voice in developing the procedures, protocols and plans to deal with Ebola at their facilities.

Says AFT President Randi Weingarten:

Nurses and health care professionals are the front line in this fight, and their number one priority is to keep their communities safe….Health care professionals step up when there are crises, they run toward crises.

Read more here and here.

Along with calling for stronger protocols and protections, the United States along with NNU and AFT have been providing assistance to nurses unions and health care workers organizations in West Africa who are in the center of the Ebola battle. That includes working with international organizations to provide health care workers with education, training and other support. Weingarten says:

We must deal with the Ebola crisis globally and locally.

Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network, says:

All of us have a responsibility to support the humanitarian effort and assist the heroic nurses, doctors and other health care workers who are on the front lines risking their lives to heal the thousands of infected patients in West Africa.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Remember That Time You Thought Your Hospital Charged You Too Much? You Were Probably Right

Everybody knows about exorbitant hospital prices, but data compiled by National Nurses United (NNU) shows that many hospitals, especially the for-profit ones, are price gouging their patients. Many for-profit hospitals, according to NNU, actually charge patients more than 10 times what it costs to provide care.

“Such inflated practices continue to price far too many Americans out of access to needed medical care or expose them to financial ruin,” says NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “It’s long past time to rein in the price gouging and recognize that a health care system based on profiteering puts all of us at risk.”

The top 14 U.S. hospitals charge more than $1,000 per every $100 of their actual costs, according to NNU. New Jersey leads the country in hospital costs with Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus at the top, charging $1,192 for every $100 of its costs. The top 100 hospitals nationwide have a charge-to-cost ratio, on average, of 765%, while the national average is 331%.

Many of the most expensive hospitals are owned by two massive hospital corporations, Community Health Systems and Health Management Associates, NNU reports. The two companies are pursuing a merger that NNU says would raise costs even further. For-profit hospitals, in general, charge much more than the national average at 503% of costs. Meanwhile, public hospitals at all levels average 245% of actual costs, more evidence that government-run enterprises often do better than privatized services. Maryland, which NNU says is probably the most regulated state in terms of medical charges, has the lowest average charges.

“The lesson here is that the critical work of real health care reform is far from complete,” Ross says. “As long as our health continues to be held hostage by hospitals and other corporations more focused on profits than care, Americans will be at risk.”

Ross says NNU would continue to stand up for patients:

Nurses will never stop fighting for transformation of our inequitable health care system to one based on patient need and quality care for all. The numbers for bankruptcy and financial ruin from medical bills plummet at age 65, when people qualify for Medicare. The best solution is to expand and update Medicare to cover everyone and take the financing of health care out of the hands of the profiteers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Editorial: Confirm NLRB Members to Protect Nurses

An editorial in the South Jersey Times calls on the U.S. Senate to approve President Barack Obama’s nominations to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to ensure nurses at Memorial Hospital of Salem County have their rights to collective bargaining protected.  More than two years ago, the nurses voted to form a union and attempted to enter into contract negotiations with Community Health Systems (CHS), the owner of the hospital.  CHS refused to recognize the union and appealed the election to the NLRB. The case remains in limbo because of a federal appeals court decision that is obstructing the work of the NLRB by severely limiting the president’s authority to make recess appointments when Congress won’t act on nominees. The nurses’ case is one of many pending cases before the NLRB, which can’t move forward because Republicans don’t want the board to function properly and protect the rights of U.S. workers.

Here’s an excerpt from the editorial:

Because several nominations made to the NLRB by President Barack Obama are pending approval in Congress, there’s been no action on the Salem County issue and many other labor board cases….

Today’s congressional gridlock belies the concept of “balance of powers.” By failing to act on presidential appointments, in defiance of a constitutional mandate for “advice and consent,” the legislative branch wrests power away from the executive branch.

It’s not just the NLRB. Dozens of federal judicial vacancies remain unfilled, with an average wait of 224 days until a nominee reaches confirmation stage. According to the Alliance for Justice, that’s up from 176 days under George W. Bush and 98 days under Bill Clinton at the same points in their terms in office.

Gridlock or not, Congress must fulfill its constitutional mandates. The effects of its failure are being felt in Salem County and elsewhere.

Read the full editorial.

Image from National Nurses United on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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