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WBGH nurses ratify new contract with ‘historic’ raises

WILKES-BARRE — The 300-plus nurses at General Hospital voted Tuesday to ratify a new, three-year contact that prioritizes nurse retention and patient care and includes “historic” raises, according to a release from their union.

Th pact includes wage increases of 18%, 3% and 3% over three years.

In the midst of a statewide staffing crisis, the agreement was reached between the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association/Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners (PASNAP) bargaining committee and hospital management last Friday.

At the forefront of negotiations were concerns about quality of care due to understaffing, union officials said. The terms, according to a release, were “overwhelmingly” ratified on Tuesday.

“We are thrilled,” PASNAP President Maureen May, R.N., said.

May mentioned that two years into the pandemic, healthcare system workers have been “severely stressed” and that the ranks of bedside caregivers have been “severely thinned.”

“This contract,” she said, “with its emphasis on safe staffing, prioritizes excellence in patient care even as it acknowledges the tremendous contribution of front line caregivers.”

The provisions of this contract also recognize 58 nurses with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Those nurses will see a 20.74% raise in celebration of their advanced knowledge and skills, as well as their decades of dedication to their patients and the hospital.

Lori Schmidt, R.N., treasurer of the WVNA pointed out that the raises over the lifespan of the three-year contract total over $9.2 million. Furthermore, she said, “We have many phenomenal male RNs, but March 8 is also International Working Women’s Day and I couldn’t be happier for all of our nurses and our area.”

PASNAP Treasurer Stanley Wielgopolski, R.N., acknowledged the importance of the agreement, as well as the importance of establishing a “working relationship” with Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. He also stated the importance of being able to “improve the quality of care for our patients,” which he said was, “our foremost concern.”

Also, under the new contract, nurses who “precept new hires and nurses who are assigned as charge nurse” have increased 50 cents, from $0.25 to $0.75 an hour.

Additionally, all nurses are eligible for a $500 bonus from $1.19 million in funds established by House Bill 253, which appropriated a total of $250 million for the state’s healthcare workers. In order to receive bonuses, the hospital will first have to accept and then receive the funds, to the be distributed to the nursing staff.

The ratification of this new contract marks the first time that a full contract negotiation did not include a nurses’ strike since for-profit owners, Community Health Systems, bought the hospital in 2008.

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