Providence St. Vincent Medical Center nurses reach tentative agreement

Nurses at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland have entered into a two-year tentative contract with hospital administrators.

The Oregon Nurses Association, which represents the hospital’s 1,600 nurses at the bargaining table, announced the tentative agreement. If the nurses accepted the offer, there would be no strike at the largest of three Providence hospitals in Oregon where nurses have voted to allow a strike for the past two months. Portland Hospital nurses were the first to authorize a strike in May.

The other two hospitals are Providence Milwaukie Hospital and Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center in Oregon City. Those hospitals have not yet gone on strike, but either or both could do so despite the agreement reached in Providence St. Vincent. This is because the employment contract for each hospital is negotiated separately. The two hospitals combined have nearly 500 nurses on staff.

The tentative agreement addresses critical issues, such as patient care and safety, nursing practice standards and staffing levels and affordable health care, according to the nurses’ association. If the nurses approved it, the contract would come into effect immediately.

A spokesperson for Providence on Monday had no immediate comment on the tentative agreement, which the union announced on Saturday.

“Nurses are dedicated to putting our patients first,” John Smeltzer, a registered nurse and union executive committee chair at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, said in a statement. “We have stood up to one of the largest health care systems in the country and have reached an agreement to make immediate improvements in the health care of our patients. When frontline nurses spoke out, our community rallied behind us. I am grateful to the thousands of community allies, union leaders, elected officials and frontline healthcare workers who have stood with nurses to set a new standard of care for our community.

The bargaining team recommends that the nurses vote to accept the proposal.

The terms of the tentative agreement include:

  • Improved access to appropriate personal protective equipment to prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19 and maintain high standards of care.
  • Improved nurse staffing that incorporates safe staffing standards into the contract. Providence is also making a stronger commitment to meeting established day-to-day safety standards for staffing, the union said. This includes the posting and rapid filling of vacancies and a task force to monitor the issue.
  • Health care costs for nurses are under control, with health benefit costs with limited increases in premiums and capitalized costs.
  • A salary increase of up to 14% over the next two years.

Next steps for nurses

This week, nurses at the hospital will hear more details about the offer before voting. Voting is expected to begin June 20, Kevin Mealy, spokesman for the Oregon Nurses Association, said in an email to The Lund Report.

“The tentative agreement sets a new standard and could provide a roadmap for agreements in certain areas at other facilities, particularly staffing where nurses have won many concessions that will make care safer for nurses and patients,” Mealy said.

Negotiations continue in the other Providence hospitals which could still go on strike.

Nurses from the Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center bargaining team met Friday afternoon with Providence administrators, the union said.

“There was significant movement during negotiations and the nurses offered Providence a full contract proposal based in part on the Providence St. Vincent agreement,” Mealy said in an email to the Lund Report. “However, we have not received a full response from Providence administrators.”

In Providence Hood River, which did not vote to authorize the strike, the nurses’ contract expired. The nurses are planning an information picket over the next month to educate the community, the union said.

In addition, strike planning and preparation activities continue with support from elsewhere in the Providence system. ONA nurses from Providence Home Health and Hospice are planning a fundraising strike and picnic for Providence nurses on June 11 in southeast Portland, Mealy said.

The Oregon Nurses Association represents more than 15,000 nurses and other healthcare workers in the state, including more than 4,000 nurses working at 10 Providence Oregon healthcare hospitals and clinics.

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.