Queen of the Valley nurses await certification of union vote

Nearly 500 RNs will be part of California Nurses Assocation
2013-05-01T12:12:00Z 2013-05-02T09:32:09Z Queen of the Valley nurses await certification of union voteISABELLE DILLS Napa Valley Register
May 01, 2013 12:12 pm  • 

Registered nurses at Queen of the Valley Medical Center voted by 64 percent Tuesday night to join the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

The RNs, who voiced a variety of concerns from safe staffing to unit closures, voted 248 to 140 to join CNA in a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, according to CNA. Nearly 500 RNs at Queen of the Valley will now be represented by CNA.

CNA’s executive director, RoseAnn DeMoro, said she was not surprised by Tuesday night’s results. Many RNs at Queen of the Valley have had their “hearts set” on unionizing, but each year they were convinced by their employer that things would get better, DeMoro said.

“I’m very happy and proud of those nurses,” she said.

Growing concerns about economic cuts and appropriate staffing for both RNs and other hospital staff were key factors in the final decision, according to CNA.

MaryLou Bahn, who has been an RN at Queen of the Valley for 30 years, said this was at least the third time the nurses have voted on unionizing. The last vote took place about three years ago, and the proposal to join CNA failed by fewer than 20 votes, she said.

Bahn said the majority of nurses at Queen of the Valley have been wanting to belong to a professional organization “run by nurses, for nurses.”

“We’re all going to be patients one day,” she said. “You want nurses who are driven by high ethics and are protected by an association that advocates for the delivery of safe, quality patient care.”

Joining the union gives nurses a “very strong voice” in fighting for high-quality patient care, and it also creates a more stable workforce at the Queen, DeMoro said.

Hospital President and CEO Walt Mickens said union representation will not change the fact that healthcare reform and “other market forces” are creating challenges and changes in healthcare everywhere.

“We understand and appreciate that some of our nurses have concerns about stability. These are uncertain times, not just for healthcare, but for the nation,” Mickens said. “We will continue to confront these changes as we have always done, by holding true to our values and maintaining a work environment characterized by dignity, service and collaboration.”

The National Labor Relations Board must certify Tuesday night’s election results before they become official, according to Queen of the Valley. No other unions represent employees at the hospital.

DeMoro said she isn’t anticipating any problems with the National Labor Relations Board certifying the elections results, and she expects contract negotiations to begin immediately.

“While we await certification, the Queen remains focused on respecting the decision the majority of our Registered Nurses,” Mickens said. “It’s time to heal and move forward together.”

Mickens added that nothing will change Queen of the Valley’s mission of improving the health and quality of life for the people of Napa.

In April 2012, the hospital laid off 55 employees and reduced the hours of an additional 20. Queen of the Valley also reduced expenses by consolidating vendors and sharing resources with its sister hospitals within St. Joseph Health.

Mickens told the Napa Valley Register last year that budget cuts were necessary due to the economic downturn, decreased reimbursements for patient services, a fluctuating number of patients and sharp increases in charity care and bad debt.

During the past fiscal year, Queen of the Valley spent nearly $22.5 million in caring for un- and under-insured people, said Vanessa deGier, director of communications and marketing. Among those expenses, the hospital spent approximately $3.2 million in charity care and nearly $20 million represented unpaid costs of state and local programs, including Medi-Cal.

“The entire leadership team is proud of how all of our registered nurses and staff have remained committed to our patients throughout this process,” said Suki Stanton, vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer of Queen of the Valley.

“Nurses are healers. Our healing lies in our common commitment to every patient and family who comes to the Queen for care.  We will continue to respect one another’s views and unite through our shared commitment to provide a healing environment not only for our patients, but for ourselves.”

CNA is a growing influence in the St. Joseph Health System, the Orange County-based hospital chain that operates Queen of the Valley. Overall, CNA now represents some 1,600 St. Joseph RNs at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, Petaluma Valley Hospital in Petaluma, and St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley in Southern California as well as Queen of the Valley.

“With more CNA nurses in the St. Joe's Health System, we increase our ability to advocate for our patients and the communities we serve,” said Kerry Sweeney, a St. Joseph Eureka RN.

The win also reflects CNA’s strength in Catholic hospital systems. CNA is the largest organization representing Catholic hospitals nurses in the U.S., with 16,000 Catholic hospital RNs, the union said.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. Conniebunny
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    Conniebunny - May 01, 2013 12:46 pm
    The hospital finally gets what they deserve. After 25 years working there, and not ever voting to have union come in, because of my loyalty, they dumped off the medical transcription department to an outsource company, leaving so many great workers stressed out without a job, without medical benefits, and without our dignity. I thought it was for budget cuts and the need to remain nonprofit but it was only about money. So happy that the nurses will keep their jobs!! Great decision Nurses! You deserve to be assured that you won't be homeless like I'm about to be in a week. Not kidding about that.
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    THeENDisNEAH - May 01, 2013 3:26 pm
    enjoy those 8 hour shifts... oh and forget about those raises you were to get during contract negotiations ;)
  3. Conniebunny
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    Conniebunny - May 01, 2013 4:12 pm
    It also looks like the outsource company, who took over our medical transcription department jobs, is not doing a good job at all. I heard this straight from several doctors' mouths,, and we all knew that would happen, but our voice was never heard; union would have made sure we were part of any decision made. It will never be done like our loyal-to-the-hospital transcriptionists did it. We were responsible for great patient care, keeping all reports confidential and as accurate as 100%, and we were proud of our jobs, and the hospital. I am very proud that the nurses pushed forward because if they didn't, they would surely be dwindled down to a tight staff, and worked to death, being 3 ppl in 1. You go nurses!!!!
  4. Conniebunny
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    Conniebunny - May 01, 2013 4:14 pm
    Promises, promises, that would have never been kept anyway. Sorry, but after 25 years, you can see why I'm upset, but more than that, have been left with nothing, and I mean nothing. HAPPY FOR THE NURSES UNION!!!
  5. rpcv
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    rpcv - May 01, 2013 4:44 pm
    Congratulations, Nurses at QV! We proud Union teachers stand with you. Many of the problems you describe (especially of the privatization variety) sound very familiar to us.
  6. Downtownworker
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    Downtownworker - May 01, 2013 8:26 pm
    @conniebunny the queen is not a non-profit
  7. napanurse
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    napanurse - May 01, 2013 11:48 pm
    @Downtownworker Yes it is.
  8. rocketman
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    rocketman - May 02, 2013 5:40 am
    Here in lies the problem:

    "During the past fiscal year, Queen of the Valley spent nearly $22.5 million in caring for un- and under-insured people, said Vanessa deGier, director of communications and marketing. '
  9. glenroy
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    glenroy - May 02, 2013 6:35 am
    It's not for profit either...
  10. Old Time Napkin
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    Old Time Napkin - May 02, 2013 7:47 am
    rocketman, that is absolutely the problem. You can't treat people for free and expect to meet expenses.
  11. anothervoice
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    anothervoice - May 02, 2013 12:31 pm
    What is the answer/solution ? Turning people who are suffering with injuries or illness away ? But then where does the money come from to treat the under or un-insured people ?
  12. rocketman
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    rocketman - May 02, 2013 1:22 pm
    Why is it my responsibility to pay for health care for the uninsured? If the Federal Government mandates this, then they should find the money to pay for it. Instead the medical insurance companies charge me 4 times what I should be paying to care for the uninsured. How is that fair??
  13. rocketman
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    rocketman - May 02, 2013 1:27 pm
    ..............and I need to add...........aren't we just creating an incentive for people to be uninsured? Aren't we creating incentives for people to stay on long-term welfare?? I'm all for helping people for a limited time, but this becomes ridiculous. There is so much work out there that needs attention. Why can't people provide work for the hospital to pay back the costs of their treatment once they are well?? Trash pick-up, maintenance, lots of chores that don't require skills........
  14. 1Napanow
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    1Napanow - May 02, 2013 3:23 pm
    The management at the Queen really shot themselve in the foot after nurses turned down the union in the previous vote. Not only did they cut the nurses "on call" pay in half, they laid off many of the respiratry therapists only to hire some of them back at part time and no health benefits. Other departments were closed, long term employees were layed off without notice or severance and support staff such as houskeeping and the lift team was reduced. It became quite apparent to anyone with their eyes open that there was little concern for career employess, despite the sacarine sweet statements of management. The management at the Queen reaped what they had sown. What made it worse for them was all the effort they expended before the previous election to assure the nurses that management really wanted their input on patient care only to be completely ignored after the election. Sorry Queen, Charlie Brown is not going to try to kick that football again only to have you pull it back.
  15. 1Napanow
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    1Napanow - May 02, 2013 3:38 pm
    The obvious answer is a national health insurance plan that covers every citizen. Somehow Canada does it. Yes I know that Canadians all hate their system and wish they lived in the US. WRONG! Go to wikipedia and look up "Health care in Canada".
    I dare you!
  16. Gary Orton
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    Gary Orton - May 03, 2013 3:48 pm
    Part of the justification for requiring charitable non-profit hospitals like Queen of the Valley to provide un- or under-compensated care is that they don’t pay any income or property taxes. They also benefit from tax-exempt bond financing and the tax deductibility of charitable donations. All of these federal, state, and local tax exemptions can be viewed as subsidies offsetting expenses for indigent care. Whether they are sufficient is another story. But, it is not correct to state or imply that such care falls entirely on the backs of the non-indigent local hospital users in the form of proportionally higher charges hospital charges or resulting insurance rates, or that the federal government is not critically involved in funding indigent health care.

    Oh …except the sequester (Rep. Mike Thompson voted for this bill) cuts reimbursements to Medicare providers by two percent. How will the sequester affect Queen of the Valley? Maybe reporter Dills can ask Thompson and the hospital.
  17. 1963 Napan
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    1963 Napan - May 03, 2013 4:38 pm
    Our family has worked at the Queen for a combined time of over 50 years. I am so PROUD that the nurses finally went union. Our family has been fighting to go union for nearly 30 years and for some reason, people were always scared off of the union by the promises made by the management at the Queen. Finally!! I just wish my Mom were alive to see this day. She worked as a nurse for 30 years at the Queen and year after year always fought for the union to come in and protect the nurses. It is sad that so many good and loyal employees had to lose their jobs in order for this to finally happen.
  18. glenroy
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    glenroy - May 04, 2013 4:05 am
    Unionization will end up turning the Queen into a City or County Hospital….there is no the way can continue subsidizing Medicare, Medicaid, Medical and Obamacare…while pandering to a Union that has done nothing but drive healthcare costs through the roof.
    The flipside is poor management is a breeding ground for greedy unions whose objective is to turn this county into an socialist society (Utopia) workers paradise….and they view themselves as the Elitists.

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    HLMMXII - May 04, 2013 4:37 pm
    Unionization? How old fashioned. Isn't that how this country was built-up substantially, with and through Union Labor.? Cannot see how unionization will ever hurt anyone, it'll only help.
    If one's mind is completely closed, life will always suck, unions or not. Good luck!
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