Brown Urges Compromise Between Salem Regional, Nurses

SALEM, Ohio – While contract talks continue between members of the Salem Registered Nurses Association and the administration of Salem Regional Medical Center, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is asking both sides of the negotiations to come to a compromise benefiting everyone.

In a letter Thursday to Dr. Anita Hackstedde, SRMC president and CEO, released on the SRNA’s Facebook page, Brown, D-Ohio, referenced a strike notice issued for Monday by the nurses union, saying he is concerned about the lack of progress on a new contract and the impact failing to come to an agreement would have on both workers and patients.

“I implore both parties to stay at the bargaining table and continue with good faith negotiations until you reach a compromise that best serves the interests of SRMC staff, patients and the greater community,” Brown wrote.

Talks will continue today and are also scheduled for Saturday if needed. If no agreement is reached, nurses are set to walk out at 7 a.m. Monday.

Saying SRMC has a “long and proud history serving the area” since 1913 when a group of physicians formed the community hospital, the senator wrote how the facility continues to stand out as an independent and nonprofit hospital in an age of consolidation and for-profit health care that “far too often emphasizes profits over patients.”

He continued: “As part of that history, I know that with your employees, you share a love for your community and a deep sense of service.”

Brown said the members of the nurses association are “hardworking, skilled professionals at the heart of providing the highest level of care,” many of whom have family members who count on the hospital for care and who are deeply invested in the hospital’s future.

He also pointed out that SRMC leadership and its nursing staff share a “deep commitment to providing safe and quality care which includes ensuring that nurses are adequately staffed and supported in providing the best care for patients.”

Given these shared values, Brown wrote, “I am confident that – through continued good faith negotiations – both parties can come to a resolution and avoid a strike.”

Having met both sides during many negotiations between employers and employees, Brown said he recognizes that, despite shared goals, the process can often be frustrating for both parties, but he encouraged them to consider how safe staffing standards and a competitive compensation package reflective of the market could improve patient safety and health care outcomes, strengthening recruitment and retention efforts.

He encouraged both hospital leaders and the union to stay at the bargaining table until reaching a “fair, equitable and timely final agreement that honors the dignity of work and ensures that the community can continue to count on SRMC for their medical care.”

In response to the letter, a SRMC spokesman sent a news release saying it is one of the few independent hospitals that is still nonprofit, “which means that generating a profit is not our motive. Our top priority is taking care of our patients and providing a safety net of healthcare services for our community.”

The release continued: “It is our goal to reach a mutually agreeable contract renewal, with the understanding that patient care is our shared priority and there are two sides to these negotiations.”

SRMC said that while respecting the rights of its employees to advocate for their interests, “we believe that a strike is not in the best interest of our patients, staff or the community we serve.”

According to the release, SRMC plans on continuing good faith negotiations, is committed to reaching a mutually agreeable contract renewal that “does not take away from the resources needed to care for our patients,” and has proposed a competitive compensation package reflective of the Mahoning Valley market.

“We have confirmed to the union that SRMC follows safe staffing standards, often better than those set by our regulators. We believe our staffing fairly and reasonably supports ‘patient first’ care,” the release states. “We look forward to a successful resolution of this matter and greatly appreciate the care and dedication provided by every member of our staff.”

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