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Sparrow Hospital Nurses’ Union Rejects Contract Proposal, Authorize Strike

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the nursing union at Sparrow Hospital and the difficulties they faced in convincing the hospital administrators to increase the staffing to improve patient safety. In fact, the nurses cited such extreme concerns over patient safety that they have filed nearly 615 internal staffing complaints since August of this year. Included in the complaints were allegations of patient falls, medications that were delivered late, call bells that weren’t answered in a timely fashion, and assessments of patients that weren’t made, all because of the shortage of nurses at the hospital.

Yesterday, the nursing union took action against the hospital through a landslide vote rejecting the new contract and also authorized a strike. Sparrow maintains that the new contract includes 40 new registered nurse positions, but the nurses argue that that is hardly enough to make up for the gigantic losses in nursing staff over the past few years. The president of the nursing union, Jeff Breslin, recently stated:

"Sparrow has stated that they want to increase staffing to match national benchmarks but they are unwilling to put any protections into the contract to make sure those benchmarks are met. We unfortunately have a history with Sparrow agreeing to increase staffing and then not following through. Until those protections are in place, staffing levels are just numbers on a piece of paper."

Nevertheless, Breslin also stated that it is the goal of the union to avoid walkouts by negotatiating a contract with the hospital that ensures patient safety. The last time nurses went on strike in the Lansing area was in October 2005 when about 500 nurses at Ingham Regional Medical Center walked out for about three weeks over concerns on staffing levels, wages and benefits.