VERMONT NURSES RATIFY FIRST CONTRACT After voting to form a union a year ago, nurses of the Porter Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals reached a tentative agreement with Porter Medical Center in December, which they ratified by an overwhelming margin. “Two years of planning, dreaming and hard work ended up to be a great accomplishment,” said RN Janet Mosurick, celebrating the vote. “It led to a first nursing contract for the hospital where I am proud to work.”
“The delivery of healthcare is better for a community when workers and management can bargain over issues affecting patients, and that’s what happened here,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, upon hearing of the contract approval. The issues addressed in this first contract were the catalyst for the RNs to form a union so they would have an avenue to discuss ways to improve patient care and working conditions.
Ensuring patient safety is a top priority for all nurses, including those at Porter Medical Center, Weingarten noted. “Forced overtime and chaotic schedules put patients and nurses at risk. The agreement will minimize that risk, ensuring that nurses work under safe and sane working conditions and patients get the high-quality care they deserve.” The contract took effect upon ratification and will continue through September 2017.
THE “NATION’S DOCTOR” IS IN As the last days of the 113th Congress came to a close, Vivek Murthy was narrowly confirmed as surgeon general. President Obama nominated Murthy in November 2013, a few months after Regina Benjamin left the job. Murthy’s nomination faced strong opposition from the National Rifle Association because of his support for gun-control laws and from Republicans who felt he wasn’t qualified for the public health job. Filling the vacant position became a priority when the Ebola virus reached the United States. AFT Nurses and Health Professionals called on Congress to confirm Murthy, with AFT President Randi Weingarten noting in a letter, “In times of crisis, strong leadership is essential. As the ‘nation’s doctor,’ the surgeon general provides the public with clear, evidence-based information and helps us discern fact from fiction during complex and emotional public health crises.”
HOSPITALS’ HANDLING OF HAI SLOW BUT PROGRESSING Athough hospital-acquired infections are on the decline, there is still work to be done, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Significant reductions were reported at the national level in 2013 for nearly all infections, although hospitals did not reach the goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “More action is needed at every level of public health and healthcare to improve patient safety and eliminate infections that commonly threaten hospital patients,” the report states. The full CDC report is available at bit.ly/reportHAI. Starting in fiscal year 2015, one-quarter of U.S. hospitals—those with the poorest performance on error and infection rates—will face a 1 percent cut to their Medicare inpatient reimbursements as a penalty.
AFT URGES CONGRESS TO VOTE “NO” ON ACA 30-REPEAL A bill in the House of Representatives to raise the 30-hour full-time employment threshold for Affordable Care Act eligibility to 40 hours is wrong and unfair, AFT President Randi Weingarten says. “Contingent workers, including college and university adjunct faculty, make up an increasing share of the workforce,” she points out. If the threshold for coverage is raised from 30 to 40 hours, many of these workers will lose a hard-fought opportunity for employer health coverage. “Rather than embracing the spirit of the ACA to help expand healthcare for all working families,” she says, “this unwarranted change would subvert the law’s intent to cover more Americans and would close off a much-needed health insurance option.” Read the letter to members of Congress at go.aft.org/ltr_aca010815.
AFT URGES VACCINATIONS The AFT joined with the Obama administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local leaders, and public health advocates in calling for individuals and parents to vaccinate themselves and their children amid a new outbreak of measles.
“We need to keep our kids, our families and our communities safe. That means staying current with childhood immunizations according to CDC recommendations,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Nurses and healthcare providers know that childhood immunizations are essential to the well-being of children and the broader community. The recent measles outbreak is another blatant reminder of the importance of vaccinations.
“Our members are on the frontlines,” Weingarten continued. “We are urging our teachers, paraprofessionals, public employees and healthcare workers—who all could be at greater risk—to consult with their healthcare providers on possible boosters and reimmunizations.”
As part of our efforts to keep the public safe, the AFT has issued “Stopping Measles in Its Tracks,” go.aft.org/stopmeasles, a fact sheet about the current outbreak and the importance of vaccinations.