Nurses Picket Outside EMMC 

Nurses and hospital administration at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor continue to clash over a new contract. Nurses, some on their lunch break, took to the streets joined by other members of the Maine State Nurses Association, for an informational picket in front of the hospital on Monday.Their number one complaint is staffing levels, which the nurses say has been an issue for years. They say current staffing levels cause patient care to suffer. Pat Martin has been a nurse at EMMC since 1974. This is the 4th time she’s picketed during contract negotiations in her career. “We never want poor patient care, but what’s happening is that nurses may be mandated to work overtime because of back up help, because of economics,” Martin says.Officials at the hospital say the nurses want mandated staffing levels that require the same number of nursing staff 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Lorraine Rodgerson, Chief Nursing Officer at EMMC, says staffing levels haven’t changed since 2002. She says EMMC is “philosophically opposed” to mandated staffing ratios. “The thing about mandated ratios, it doesn’t take into account the experience of the nurse, the acuity of the patient, and we’ve had great outcomes with our current staffing levels and see no need to change them,” she says. Another sticking point in the contract negotiations is health coverage. Valerie Sylvester is the negotiator for the MSNA and says the health insurance plan being offered by the hospital is not good enough. “So nurses are paying premiums to Eastern Maine Health Services, they’re using Eastern Maine Health Services, and what’s not covered, they’re paying eastern maine health for the remainder of these services.”Greg Howatt, the hospital’s Vice President of Human Resources, says their current health plan has been in place for 30 years and is outdated. Howatt says all employees at the hospital, not just nurses, are being asked to accept the new plan. “We do expect that nurses contribute something to the cost of health insurance,” he says.Nurses have accused hospital administration of fanning a rumor that EMMC is planning to lock out nurses for 30 days. Howatt says he’s aware of the rumors, but the hospital has no plans to lock out the nurses. The two sides will head back to the negotiating table Wednesday.