St. Charles Bend nurses voted by a margin of 95 percent to ratify a new, three-year labor contract last week, officials said Monday.
St. Charles Health System and the Oregon Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement on the contract on Oct. 11 after a bargaining session that lasted more than 24 hours.
"These negotiations dealt with very difficult issues. We are very pleased that such a large majority voted to ratify it," said Alison Hamway, labor representative for the ONA in Bend, in a joint news release with the hospital. "We believe it is a fair contract; it was unanimously recommended by the ONA negotiating team."
Negotiations began May 23 and progressed in a professional and respectful manner over the past several months.
"Both teams worked very hard to reach this agreement and I am proud of the work that went into it," said Rebecca Morgan, director of Human Resources for St. Charles Health System. "We are happy the nurses voted to approve the contract and look forward to working together to continue to improve patient care."
Some of the highlights of the contract agreement include 2 percent general wage increases each year and changes in the health plan that gives St. Charles caregivers a choice between a caregiver-directed plan with a health savings account and a traditional PPO plan. Both health plan options include a voluntary wellness program that provides incentives for caregivers to improve their health.
In addition, the two sides agreed on language in the contract that will result in more nursing care at the patient bedside and an overall improvement in patient care and safety.
Charge nurses will maintain their current positions and will be focused on clinical development and expertise to help mentor and enhance the skills of other nurses on their unit.
Charge nurse patient care assignments will be reviewed on a unit by unit basis, and a mutually agreed upon job description includes patient assessments and helping develop practice policies and procedures.
St. Charles also plans to hire clinical supervisors for each unit to provide leadership and improve communication between the units and hospital management.
Meanwhile, members of the Service Employees International Union are scheduled to vote Thursday whether to continue to have the union bargaining on their behalf. The SEIU was voted in narrowly over a year ago, but talks have failed to come to agreement on an initial contract.
About St. Charles Health System
St. Charles Health System, Inc., headquartered in Bend, Oregon, owns and operates the St. Charles medical centers in Bend and Redmond, leases and operates Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville and provides management services for Mountain View Hospital in Madras. St. Charles is a private, not-for-profit Oregon corporation and is the largest employer in Central Oregon with more than 3,000 caregivers in Bend, Redmond and Prineville. In addition, there are more than 350 active medical staff members and nearly 200 visiting medical staff members who partner with St. Charles to provide a wide range of care and service to our communities.