Nurses file complaint with state commission

A state nursing association has filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint against Whidbey General Hospital for disciplining or firing nurses without providing supporting documentation.

“Imagine you are a nurse who has been disciplined or terminated and your employer refuses to provide the documents to support their allegations,” said Washington State Nurses Association officials in a statement to members on the group’s website Friday. “WSNA is troubled that Whidbey General Hospital has refused to provide information in such a case as well as other requested information. Therefore, we have filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the Public Employment Relations Commission.”

The commission confirmed Friday that the complaint was filed April 16. It was unclear whether or not nurses had been fired from Whidbey General Hospital.

Phone messages left for Whidbey General Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Linda Gipson and other requests for comment were not returned by press time.

The WSNA complaint was filed amidst ongoing negotiations with the hospital about the working conditions and compensation of Whidbey General Hospital nurses. The discussions between the hospital and the nurses association are triggered every three years, according to WSNA representative Lillie Cridland who said she couldn’t comment on the matter.

However, the nurses association has called out some red flags in Whidbey General Hospital management’s proposals.

WSNA said they are “disappointed to report that (Whidbey General Hospital) management came to the last two sessions with new and shocking proposals that would have a detrimental effect on your (the nurses) working conditions,” according to an April 14 update on the WSNA website.

Among these “negative proposals” coming from the hospital are potential wage reductions and tying wages to the hospital’s operating margins and nurse metrics.

“Nurses are not responsible for the hospital’s current economic state — the hospital pays its nurses below-market wages — or the poor patient satisfaction scores, yet management wants to tie your wages to unspecified nursing metrics,” the update said. “Those numbers have plummeted over the past years under current leadership.”

WSNA claims that Whidbey General is resisting paying daily overtime to some nurses or providing for uninterrupted breaks.

“This is a safety concern and erodes your current contract which provides for uninterrupted breaks,” according to the statement.

The hospital also wants to force nurses to repay training costs, according to the organization, if they don’t meet hospital-determined criteria for program completion. And, they claim the hospital plans to limit vocational mobility and “handcuff” nurses to new positions without the ability to “move for six months to a more suitable position should one open up.”

“Management has said ‘no’ to our common-sense proposals to make sure nurses are adequately trained and oriented and have the proper equipment to do their jobs safely,” the update said.

Whidbey General Hospital has not been entirely uncooperative on some issues.

In an April 1 update, the WSNA said they were successful in persuading management to withdraw several proposals that would have made it easier to fire nurses.