ELLSWORTH — Five months after authorizing a potential strike and after more than two years without a contract, medical technicians at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital reached an agreement with hospital representatives in late June, said Northern Light Maine Coast Director of Communications Kelley Columber in an email last week.
Union members ratified the agreement on July 1, Columber said.
Jennifer Nappi, a labor representative with the Maine State Nurses Association, which represents the technicians, said demands for increased security have been “partially addressed,” with security guards onsite for longer periods of time.
“We wanted 24/7,” said Nappi, “We did not get 24/7, but there are security guards.”
Nappi said the contract also includes a process by which technicians and nurses can raise concerns if they feel unsafe.
Nurses and technicians rallied last October for increased security. Some said an increasing number of assaults on staff had made them fearful to go to work. Police records show that officers are called to the hospital several times a week to help with combative patients. The hospital had announced plans in 2018 to fund a full-time police officer on-site, a position similar to a school resource officer, but it has yet to move forward with the proposal.
The Maine State Nurses Association Technical Unit at Maine Coast includes 29 technicians from areas including the cardiopulmonary, radiology, laboratory and operating room. The contract was the first one the union had negotiated.
“First contracts do take a long time,” said Nappi. “This was incredibly long, but COVID did impact it somewhat; it delayed the negotiations,” as focus understandably shifted to the safety of nurses and technicians and the availability of personal protective equipment.
“I think that it is a great first step for a contract and that we will build from there,” said Nappi. “Everybody’s really happy that we have a first contract.”