MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center and nurses reach new contract agreement

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 12:09 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - It’s impossible for medical practices to function without nursing staff. But nursing is just one of many fields facing worker shortages.

After months of negotiations, MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center and the local nurses union came to an agreement on a new nursing contract, with the goal of recruitment and retention.

Nursing is a profession where many join the industry to help others. But lately, this has become much more difficult.

Beginning in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of individuals visiting the hospital for medical has continued to rise. Forcing nurses to work extra hours and care for extra patients.

“You should typically have 4 patients,” said Jaylee Hurst, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 222 and a former RN at MercyOne. “And they’re dealing with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. That is very difficult to do because you’re not giving the patients the care that they deserve. And as a nurse, coming into this position, you come in to care for people. And when you’re not able to do that you leave.”

Not only does this take a toll on nurses, it can also result in dangerous situations for patients.

“For California, for example, on a med-surge floor they’re given four patients,” said Hurst. “Any time they increase above four, each additional patient, that increases the patient’s chances of death by seven percent. That’s huge. So if you give that nurse an extra three-four patients, we’re talking 21% or more. And that’s scary and the public needs to get involved because the nurses are not gonna be able to do this alone.”

The increase in patients isn’t the only issue nurses have been facing. Along with the increase in cases, there has also been an increase in new diseases that may not have commonly known methods of treatment. The combination of these factors has caused many nurses to leave the industry entirely.

“People get into it, find out it’s not really what they want or what they thought it was going to be, and then they quit, and/or the older nurses are just like ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” said Sabrina Chappel, an RN at MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center. “Because the demands are increasing because people are getting sicker, the illnesses are increasing, and of course, as you saw with COVID, we had newer illnesses pop up.”

The new contract features manning tables -- charts that indicate how many nurses need to be available in certain scenarios -- to ensure patients receive adequate care and nurses aren’t being overworked. It also includes a yearly pay increase and benefits such as improved health insurance coverage.

While the nurses recognize that the new deal won’t solve every problem and that they could still potentially make more in a larger market area, they feel that the deal was a great compromise.

“We were able to secure, I think, the best possible contract negotiation,” said Chappel. “And I think this will actually be able to attract some newer nurses from our nursing schools and to secure our nurses that we have currently at MercyOne.”

In an official statement released by MercyOne, they stated they are pleased to have reached an agreement, and that they value their nurses and all of the contributions they make to care for patients.

“We are pleased that after several months of working to reach a fair and equitable contract agreement, leaders from MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center and nursing union representatives from UCFW Local 222 have reached an agreement.

“We look forward to continuing to provide extraordinary, compassionate care for the patients and families we serve together. We value our nurses and the contributions they make to delivering high-quality compassionate patient care and we greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication our colleagues show every day to our patients, their families and one another.”

Official statement from MercyOne regarding new contract agreement