MEDFORD, Ore. — Nurses at Providence Medford Medical Center say that they have been working without a contract since January. During that time, tense negotiations have been ongoing, coming to a head in April when off-duty nurses picketed outside of the building.
Now, according to the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), Providence and their nursing staff have finally reached a potential agreement.
“This is a real victory for our community. This agreement will improve patient care at the bedside and helps us attract and retain the nurses we’ll need to continue providing high-quality care to Medford’s families,” said Christalyn Matlock, a local ONA nurse and negotiating team member at Providence Medford Medical Center.
The agreement is still awaiting a vote, scheduled for May 26. The 287 ONA registered nurses will decide whether to take the two-year contract (which would last until March 31, 2020) or not.
There are multiple facets to the new deal, according to ONA. Wages are one part, and would include an increase of 6 to 9.5 percent based on experience, plus increased certification pay for nurses with specialized training.
However, it would also include greater autonomy for nurses—allowing them to set training standards for nurses who float between multiple units, collaborate on scheduling plans, and integrate new nurses into the team more quickly, according to ONA.
From the beginning of contract negotiations, the chief complaint of nurses has not been wages specifically, but rather a vicious cycle of high turnover leading to unusually long hours for the nurses remaning—often leading to more turnover. According to ONA, Oregon is projected to have a shortage of 6,000 nurses by 2025, and the Rogue Valley could make up a large part of that shortage.
On April 10, Providence nurses and their supporters held an 'informational picket' outside of the Medical Center to raise public awareness of the ongoing negotiations and the nurses' grievances.
“It’s been inspiring to watch community members and nurses stand side-by-side throughout this process to advocate for better health care and a stronger workforce,” said Matlock.