Union deal means fewer patients per nurse at Kaiser Sunnyside


Nurses at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center are about to get something coveted by some of their peers: Staffing ratios that limit the number of patients they can be responsible for at one time.

The ratios were worked out in negotiations last year between Kaiser Permanente managers and the union representing RNs at Sunnyside — Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (AFT Local 5017). It started because about 160 of the roughly 350 in-patient registered nurses at Sunnyside were on 10-hour shifts, exchanging patient information during a two-hour overlap. Management wanted them to move to eight- and 12-hour shifts, which are the norm for RNs throughout the Kaiser system. Union members met with management to bargain over that, and last October, agreed to it — in exchange for staffing ratios for all 350 RNs in in-patient units.

The agreement creates a matrix of staffing ratios that vary depending on the kind of unit and how much care individual patients need. For example, the oncology unit will have no more than four patients per registered nurse. The new rules go into effect May 10, and will lead to more nurses being hired.

“[Staffing ratios] are groundbreaking for nursing as a profession,” says Abigail Hall, an RN in Sunnyside’s progressive care unit. “It means better care for patients. That’s why we’re doing this.”

Nurse staffing ratios are mandated by state law in California and New Jersey, but not in Oregon.

Local 5017’s contract with Kaiser is a local add-on to a nation-wide multi-union collective bargaining agreement that expires in September.


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