Southern Ocean Medical Center Nurses Still Working With No Contract

Sep 19, 2018

Approximately 300 Southern Ocean Medical Center nurses are still working without a contract with SOMC’s parent company, Hackensack Meridian Health, after the one-year deal expired at the end of July. Bridget Devane, a spokeswoman for their union, Health Professionals and Allied Employees, New Jersey’s largest healthcare union with some 13,000 members in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, said on Tuesday that negotiations are ongoing.

“The next time the nurses meet with administration is on Sunday, Sept. 23,” said Devane. “We are also holding an informational picket at Jersey Shore University Medical Center on that same day, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.”

Some 1,100 nurses at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, represented by HPAE, have also been working without a contract since Aug. 1. SOMC nurses held a similar informational picket back on Aug. 15.

Contract issues include pay raises, givebacks demanded by Hackensack Meridian Health, and staffing levels. A federal mediator was called into the talks in July, apparently to no avail.

Last year the nurses authorized their bargaining committees to give Hackensack Meridian Health 10 days’ warning of a strike or “another form of concerted activity” a week before the contract expiration date. The nurses have yet to take that step in 2018, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ramping up pressure on Hackensack Meridian Health, which is neck and neck with RWJBarnabas Health in the race to become the state’s largest healthcare system. Public records show Hackensack Meridian Health had a $338 million profit in 2016 and has projected its annual revenues for 2018 to be $5.5 billion.

On Monday, HPAE’s nurses and health professionals held a press conference outside Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. They were joined by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-N.J. 6th), New Jersey Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11th), and Assembly members Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling (both D-11th).

“When hospitals practice unsafe staffing procedures, patients are put at great risk,” said Gopal. “Safe staffing requirements are essential to patient safety. Studies have proven that proper staffing quotas reduce mortality rates among patients. We need hospitals to re-prioritize and spend money at the patient care level to ensure they are providing the highest level of care possible. I am proud to stand behind the members of HPAE as they fight for these measures to not only ensure the safety of nursing and health professional staff, but for the safety of patients.”

“We are truly grateful to the members of HPAE for their devotion and determination in the fight for safe staffing and increased patient safety,” added Houghtaling.

“Nurses and healthcare professionals work tirelessly each day to care for our loved ones and deserve our unwavering support,” said Downey. —R.M.

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