A round-the-clock mediation session on Jan. 22 between registered nurses and administrators at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis, Ore., ended with a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract. The Oregon Nurses Association represents the 500 nurses at the center. They have been working without a contract since July 2019 while advocating to fix persistent staffing and safety concerns through collective bargaining.
“This agreement is a big win for our community. People from every part of Corvallis stood with nurses to make sure our hospital put patients first,” says bargaining team member and registered nurse Christina Terkildsen. “There’s more work to be done, but together we’ve made great progress to raise awareness about safety standards and ensure everyone has access to high-quality, affordable healthcare close to home.”
The tentative agreement increases patient safety by reducing extreme overtime shifts. A new dedicated operating room team will be created to cover busy night shifts, and hospital management will be required to meet with nurses when extreme mandatory overtime shifts threaten operating room safety.
“The reduction in extreme overtime shifts is a huge win for the nurses,” says Chris Carmichael, a registered nurse and member of the bargaining team, noting that the contract language is expected to set boundaries on overtime that will help the nurses to achieve work/life balance.
The nurses also negotiated equal pay for equal work by clarifying that all new nurses are eligible to join ONA’s bargaining unit immediately and receive the same benefits, pay and workplace protections as their nurse colleagues who perform similar work.
In addition, the agreement creates accountability regarding health insurance costs by establishing a systemwide Samaritan Health Services health insurance advisory committee, which will study and recommend ways to reduce rising health insurance costs and improve care for workers and their families.
Carmichael is excited to have an opportunity to focus on affordable healthcare with the proposed committee that will include the input of professionals from all Good Samaritan facilities. “We all get a seat at the table to look at what’s driving increased premiums and healthcare costs,” says Carmichael. “That work will benefit the whole community.”
The nurses are thankful for the support of the Corvallis community because it played a crucial role in their success. During the negotiations, the nurses staged a number of public actions to draw attention to their concerns, including an informational picket near the hospital last summer and Christmas caroling in downtown Corvallis in December.
“The community heard our message—that we were not being given the tools we needed to provide quality care,” says Carmichael. “We felt empowered by the support of the community and organizations.”
The nurses will schedule a vote to approve the tentative agreement in the coming weeks. If approved, the new agreement will be effective immediately.