Contact: Mary Jo Kerlin, Marketing & Communications Strategist, Lincoln County
Lincoln City: 541-557-6208 Newport: 541-574-4898 Mobile: 541-921-9045
Samaritan North Lincoln clarifies union statement
(Sept. 13, 2022 – Lincoln City, Oregon) – The Oregon Nurses Association recently issued a press release concerning efforts to form a union at Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital, and hospital officials wish to clarify some of the information.
“Our nurses have the right to a secret ballot election to decide whether to unionize. However, the information they, and the public, are receiving from union officials may be incomplete and inaccurate,” said CEO Lesley Ogden, MD.
The ONA release said a nurses union will help address burnout, understaffing, safe patient care and ensure that nurses will have a voice in decision making that impacts their working conditions and wages.
“It is not my place to comment on how a union would hope to accomplish this, but I can respond to what Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital has done to address these important matters,” Dr. Ogden said.
Staffing: Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital has expanded the number of employed nurses during the past year. When there is a vacant nursing position, where a replacement nurse is not immediately found, it is filled with a temporary contract nurse until the position can be filled permanently.
As a direct result of feedback from the hospital’s nurse staffing committee, the hospital added nursing positions in the medical/surgical unit and emergency departments and charge nurse positions in the emergency department. The hospital has standardized the practice of having two nurses on shift at all times in labor and delivery and in the intensive care unit regardless of patient census. The upgraded staffing plan in all units creates redundancy of skills and helps to cover breaks.
Patient safety and quality care: These are mandated by state and federal regulations. Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital consistently achieves high quality ratings in these areas from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as from a contracted patient survey company.
Also related to these topics, a patient acuity tool has been put in place to give nurses an objective way to understand a patient’s medical complexity in real time. This enables nurse management to assign an appropriate number of patients to each nurse on duty to ensure that safe and quality care can be given to each patient under each nurse’s care.
Employee satisfaction: Data from the most recent employee engagement survey shows a high response rate and positive scores that are much higher than the national average in areas that directly contradict some of the points made in the ONA statement. These areas include questions about respect, patient safety and business ethics. The highest score was the ranking on the statement, ‘”My ideas and suggestions are seriously considered.”
Decision making: The nurses at Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital have many opportunities to participate in committees that impact their workplace, work conditions and the way care is delivered. This encourages employee engagement and transparency of decision making. Along with the nurse staffing committee mentioned above, other ways employees’ voices can be heard include:
- Monthly departmental staff meetings led by department managers.
- Monthly Town Hall meetings led by the hospital’s vice president of Patient Care Services during both day and night shifts; these are recorded so everyone has the opportunity to either attend virtually or watch later.
- Monthly CEO Q&A sessions held virtually and that are also recorded for viewing by those unable to attend the live session.
- Sending ideas, comments and questions directly to the hospital’s executive team.Wages, benefits and other pay: The ONA release stated that nurses at Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital are not unionized, yet nurses at other Samaritan hospitals are, including those at nearby Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport. However, with or without union representation, compensation is nearly equivalent between the two coastal hospitals.
- The two hospital sites developed their pay scales independently in the past, so the step rates are not identical, but are very close. Step rates are the pay rates calculated based on years of experience and education. Nurses at both hospitals earn an additional hourly wage differential based on education level (MSN or BSN) and certain specified certifications. Other benefits, such as the education stipend, are also equal between the two hospitals.
- “A differential for education level (MSN, BSN, or specific certifications) was specifically cited in a recent email by union organizers who say it was only put in place when administration heard of the unionization efforts, but the reality is that the inequity was discovered and corrected earlier this summer, unrelated to organizing efforts,” said Dr. Ogden.Because North Lincoln is the smallest of Samaritan Health Services’ five hospitals and last-minute staffing is more challenging for this rural hospital, additional pay is available for North Lincoln nurses who pick up last-minute shift requests.“We follow our values statement that specifically calls out respect for all and we take this very seriously,” Dr. Ogden said. “While we do have business goals and some years are more challenging than others, as a community-based, nonprofit critical access hospital, we remain consistently focused on our mission of building healthier communities together.”