Nurses reject Wash. Hosp. contract
The union representing 1,600 registered nurses at Washington Hospital Center voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to reject a new contract.
The vote, which came after three months of negotiations, was 987 to 21.
The nurses are now working without a contract; their current contract expired June 19.
The union, Nurses United of the National Capital Region, had made safe staffing levels the key issue in 13 weeks of negotiations, union officials said. In a statement released Monday, the union said there is "continuing evidence that short staffing in nearly every department of the facility has created conditions that negatively affect patient care and patient safety."
Last week, more than 1,000 nurses signed a petition expressing a vote of "no confidence" in the hospital's management. If management is unwilling to work with the union, the statement said, the nurses will begin preparing for a strike vote.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said management is committed to reaching an agreement.
"The leadership of Washington Hospital Center is extremely disappointed that our nurses have voted to reject our proposed three-year contract," officials said in a statement. "However, rejection of the contract does not mean that there will be a work stoppage.
"We firmly believe our proposal is fair in light of the economic challenges and realities of health care today. We proposed a best-in-class staffing model, which places our patients first, and allows us to work in partnership with the nurses’ union. As part of this staffing model we must consider the unique resources, care, needs and acuity in each nursing unit. We hope to resume negotiations with Nurses United to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that accomplishes our common goal of providing the highest level of patient care."
Medstar Health, the Columbia-based nonprofit healthcare system that owns the hospital center and several other hospitals in the region, named Joy Drass to be acting chief executive of the hospital center June 19.
-- Lena Sun
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