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Providence nurses vote to picket

After labor negotiations broke down Wednesday night, nurses at Providence Medford Medical Center voted to picket in front of the hospital April 10.

“I think it is disappointing,” said Christalyn Matlock, a registered nurse who is part of the bargaining unit. “Hopefully, this puts the pressure on the hospital to meet us in the middle and to help the patients.”

She said nurses are overwhelmed, and the hospital is understaffed to the point it’s not fully meeting the needs of patients, causing delays in medications, potential medication errors and delays in treatment for acute-need patients.

Despite the working conditions, Matlock said, “We trudge through no matter what.”

The 287 nurses at Providence Medford, part of the Oregon Nurses Association, have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2017. A vote over a three-day period showed 98 percent of the nurses who balloted favored the picket.

Matlock said inconsistent scheduling has been a hardship for her as she raises her 1-year-old, Zoey.

In addition to seeking improved working conditions, including consistent schedules, the association is asking for a pay hike to help attract new nurses.

The information picket will be held on the sidewalk at the corner of East McAndrews Road and Crater Lake Avenue from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Kevin Mealy, spokesperson for the association, said 43 percent of the new registered nurses at Providence left in their first year in 2016. He said information provided previously that 43 percent of all nurses left is incorrect.

“The turnover we do see is one-third leave every year,” Mealy said.

Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center sees 17 percent of new registered nurses leave in their first year, he said.

Because of staffing issues, nurses with expertise in, for instance, cardiac care are being asked to cover orthopedics or other fields, Mealy said.

When RRMC’s new contract takes effect in July, its nurses will make 5 percent more than those at Providence, according to Mealy.

He said a full-time nurse at Providence earns $70,720 annually, while a new nurse at RRMC will earn $74,277 starting in July.

Gary Walker, spokesman for Providence stated in an email Friday, “Providence continues negotiating in good faith with our nurses and remains confident we are going to be able to reach an agreement. Out of respect for the negotiating process, we aren’t discussing any specific issues.”

RegionReach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.