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Nurses rally for safer staffing levels

Nurses demonstrate ahead of next contract session

Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 10:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 7:22 a.m. CDT

JOLIET – More than a dozen union nurses gathered Tuesday at the intersection of Jefferson and Springfield streets in Joliet to promote what they said would be safer staffing levels at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

The nurses, part of the Illinois Nurses Association, are in contract negotiations with administrators at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center. Union members want the contract to include mandatory staffing levels that would fluctuate based on need and nurse-to-patient ratio.

The nurses gathered and waved to motorists during rush-hour traffic ahead of the next contract negotiations, which take place Friday.

“We are trying to have staffing ratios similar to the staffing ratios in California [hospitals],” said Pam Buckley, Presence Saint Joseph nurse.

Lisa Lagger, spokeswoman for Presence Saint Joseph, said mandated staffing ratios are unproven to have positively influenced patient outcomes on such factors as mortality rates, failure to rescue, hospital-acquired conditions and medication errors.

“We believe a far more effective approach is one where leaders and staff nurses work together to optimize unit level resources for the best and safest care for our patients,” she wrote in an email.

Mayor Thomas Giarrante attended Tuesday’s rally, noting he came after getting a call from a nurse. He said he supports the contract negotiations coming to an agreeable conclusion for both parties.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Nurses need the hospital and the hospital need its nurses.”

Contract negotiations began in January. Earlier this month, union members rejected the hospital’s three-year contract offer that affects about 800 nurses.

Currently, the Joliet hospital has staffing level guidelines but those can be modified. 

Nurse Pat Meade said the staffing levels being sought would allow nurses to better serve patients.

“Patients come from the greater Joliet area because of the care we deliver,” she said. “We’re proud of that and we want to maintain that.”

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