UPDATED: Providence, Nurses reach tentative agreement

Published: Aug. 16, 2018 at 7:24 PM AKDT
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Update 5:50 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17:

Providence Alaska Medical Center said in a release that it has reached a complete tentative agreement with the Alaska Nurses Association for a three-year contract for nurses.

Providence says the agreement includes a competitive wage and benefit package, modest increases to differentials and specialty pay, a new paid time off benefit program that includes paid parental leave and short term disability, and measures to help ensure nurses receive meal and rest breaks.

The Alaska Nurses Association released a statement through a PR agency:

“This agreement represents tremendous collaboration between our community and union members,” said Donna Phillips, labor council chair of the Alaska Nurses Association. “I’m happy we were able to reach a tentative agreement with Providence on the importance of our patients’ and nurses’ well-being so that we can focus together on providing the highest quality of care for our community.”

Original Story Thursday:

The 1,200 nurses at Providence are fighting for better pay and working conditions. Negotiations for a new contract have been ongoing for over six months with no agreement reached. The nurses union, Alaska Nurses Association, says it is seeking to improve and ease a big turnover problem.

"In the emergency department we're some of the first responders for overdoses or TB exposures," said Alison Boser, an ER Nurse at Providence.

While she's only been a nurse for a couple of years in Anchorage, Boser says that it's helpful for both staff and patients to have an experienced eye for the common and unique Alaska emergencies that she witnesses every day.

"I think the importance of that can't be overstated," said Boser.

According to the Alaska Nurses Association, between 2015 to 2017, the turnover rate in the emergency department at Providence was 62 percent. In the operating room, turnover was 102 percent, and there's 42 percent turnover for all nurses — a number the union says is unusually high for just a three-year window.

"If someone's about to do your IV, you don't want someone saying, 'Oh, this is my first time,' " said Boser.

ANA says increasing staffing could help ensure that nurses working a 12-hour shift can take a legitimate break between shifts. There's also a call for wage increases and keeping paid leave. The union claims that proposed changes by Providence could result in long-term nurses losing hundreds of hours of paid leave that they have accumulated during their time at the hospital.

While Providence declined an on-camera interview about the ongoing negotiations it provided KTUU with a written statement that read, in part:

“Providence respects every employee’s right to choose to be represented by a union and has been negotiating with the Alaska Nurses Association in good faith. Our goal is to develop an agreement that benefits our employees, as well as the community we serve. We have proposals on the table that are fair and competitive, and that deserve more consideration. We are eager to continue bargaining and engaging in constructive discussion with the union."

The union says that despite the impasse in negotiations, the nurses have no plans for any form of a strike.