For Immediate Release
June 22, 2021
Contact: Anne Ransone, ONA
614-975-0485 | [email protected]
Nurses’ Union Seeks Fair Agreement, Files Unfair Labor Practice Charges as Contract Nears Expiration
CINCINNATI — Displayed on an I-75 billboard is a satirical love letter from nurses to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The message is clear: the nurses need safe staffing, and they need it now.
The Registered Nurses Association (RNA), represented by the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA), has been in contract negotiations with the Medical Center since April 26th. The union’s top priorities center on the mutually exclusive issues of nurse recruitment and retention, and safe nurse-to-patient ratios.
“I’m proud to work for the only level 1 trauma and certified stroke center in the tristate area because it means I work with highly skilled nurses. But when we are seeing nurse position vacancies approach 500, it is obvious the Medical Center is not doing enough to recruit and retain nurses with the skillset the Cincinnati community needs. That is why we are pushing for changes to health insurance, time away from the bedside and contractual nurse-to-patient ratios, to ensure we have the safe staffing levels necessary for safe care,” stated Michelle Thoman, president of the RNA. “Nurses don’t want to work for a hospital if they can’t give their patients the time and attention they deserve. Right now, our vacancies are so great that we cannot meet nationally recognized nurse-to-patient ratios. These same ratios are in the Medical Center’s own staffing plans. They must know we risk compromising safe patient care unless we do something now. The Medical Center must make a commitment to nursing and safe staffing. Only then will we recruit and retain the nurses we desperately need,” continued Thoman.
To fill staffing gaps, the Medical Center hires subcontracted, out-of-town nurses at double or even triple a normal nurse’s hourly rate. Though the Medical Center has admitted this practice is financially unsustainable, they have spent $12 million dollars alone in fiscal year 2021 on these subcontractors. This is more than the total cost the Medical Center is willing to invest in the RNA nurses over the next three years. The Medical Center also wants to extend their ability to hire these subcontractors from one year to three year increments.
“It’s insulting for the Medical Center to temporarily hire out-of-town nurses – who at times lack the skill set needed for our high acuity patients – and ignore the talented nurses in the tristate area. Agency nurses and travel nurses are temporary fixes for an ongoing problem. Our nurses are showing signs of burnout, especially after COVID-19. It is not irregular for a unit to be so short-staffed that nurses are forced to go without a bon-a-fide meal break during their 12-hour shifts. Instead of spending millions on a temporary solution, let’s invest in the nurses who are here for the long haul,” stated Andrew Beiersdorfer, COVID-19 ICU RN.
The contract between the Medical Center and the Ohio Nurses Association expires June 30, 2021. The parties will continue to bargain this week, with sessions scheduled on June 21, 22, 28, 29 and 30.
As of June 18th, the nurses’ union was forced to file several Unfair Labor Practices with the National Labor Relations Board.
The nurses’ union at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center includes 1700 registered nurses.
The billboard is located on I-75 near the Martin Luther King Jr. exit.