Nurses And Cape Cod Hospital Group Reach Agreement

After two daylong bargaining sessions, Cape Cod Healthcare and its nurses have reached an agreement in a labor dispute that culminated in a picketing session at both Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital last month.

Officials at Cape Cod Healthcare, the parent company of the two hospitals, said in a prepared statement, “The agreement reflects a shared commitment to safe, effective patient care and fair salaries and benefits for nursing staff.”

Shannon Sherman of Yarmouth, a registered nurse who serves as chairman of the Massachusetts Nurses Association for Cape Cod Hospital, said the agreement marks the end of 10 months of negotiations.

The agreement still needs to be ratified by the membership, 900 nurses at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital.

The ratification meeting is in two weeks.

The union met with hospital officials for 12 hours last Friday and 10 hours on Wednesday, Ms. Sherman said, and the nurses’ issues were mandatory overtime, staffing ratios, and a modest raise/

On mandatory overtime, the nurses compromised, she said.

The nurses agreed to the hospital’s proposal to limit mandatory overtime to three shifts per quarter per nurse, or 12 per year.

Nurses wanted the number of hours of the mandatory overtime limited to four hours. The hospital would not promise to do that, but said they would try, Ms. Sherman said.

On staffing, the hospital would not agree to the ratios the nurses wanted. “They said staffing levels are adequate and we disagree,” she said.

The compromise was to get a few additional nurses added to the “floating pool,” of nurses who can be stationed anywhere in the hospital.

“We are looking forward to working with the hospital to adjust the staffing levels," she said, adding that a staffing committee has been formed and hopes to meet with hospital administrators on the issue.

The raise that was agreed upon, Ms. Sherman said, is about 3 percent over three years for nurses at the top of the salary scale and 2 percent for others.

In addition, each nurse gets a bonus equal to 2 percent of their salary in the first year of the contract.

The nurses, she said, agreed to a modest raise in order to benefit as many nurses as possible.

“We’re satisfied. It’s a beginning,” she said, “and we’re glad both sides were able to come to an agreement.”

One area the nurses are disappointed in, though, is staffing in the psychiatric area of the hospital, which is contained in a separate building on the hospital campus in Hyannis.

The nurses asked for a security guard to be dedicated to that building 24 hours a day. “They refused,” she said.

Hospital officials said the contract “offers nurses wages and benefits that are competitive, as well as a continued commitment to staffing patterns that support the delivery of the highest quality of care. At the same time, it is a contract that balances the long-term financial needs of the health care system and considers the declining reimbursements the CCHC will face going forward.”

Cape Cod Healthcare employs more than 450 physicians and 4,500 employees, and has 1,100 volunteers.
 

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