ELLSWORTH — Unions representing Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital nurses and medical technicians have yet to make progress on contracts in negotiations, said Jennifer Nappi, a representative for Maine State Nurses Association.
“We are still in negotiations,” Nappi said. “We have not made any progress.”
Two separate unions, one that includes nursing staff and another that includes medical technicians, held a joint rally at the end of October in S.K. Whiting Park in support of union demands for increased security, improved staffing ratios and compensation. The technicians have been in negotiations for nearly two years; the nurses, since May.
Money is a part of the negotiations, of course, but it’s not the biggest factor, said several rally-goers.
“Wages and all of that come into this,” said registered nurse Joan Torrey, who has been with the hospital for 24 years, in an interview in October.
“But at the end of the day we need a safe place to work and our patients need a safe place to be. They should not be fearful and we should not be fearful of day-to-day work in that hospital.”
The union is calling for a third nurse on duty in the emergency department on the night shift, as well as for charge nurses to not have patient assignments, to allow them to be able to supervise and assist other nurses.
The technicians are particularly concerned about recruiting and retaining staff to maintain safe patient ratios, which David Evans, a respiratory therapist who has been with the hospital for 14 years, said could be helped by setting “fair compensation.”
For their part, hospital officials said in a previous statement that “During the past several years, we have focused on increasing safety and security. We continually review and evaluate hospital safety; we have met with external experts for advice, and have engaged in third-party assessments.
“Maine Coast has provided training for staff, taken steps to implement new safety measures, and have security staffing in place to provide additional coverage.”
Both the nurses and technicians are working under extensions of their last contracts, Nappi said.
“I’m hopeful, I’m cautiously optimistic,” she said, when asked whether she foresaw demands being met. “But as of yet some of our major issues are not being addressed.”