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  1. Health

HCA hospital nurses win wage, staffing concessions in union agreement

Published May 24, 2012

Reinforcements and higher wages are on the way for nurses at 10 of the 15 Florida hospitals owned by Hospital Corporation of America, including five in the bay area.

The union representing roughly 3,100 nurses at the hospitals reached a contract agreement with Tennessee-based HCA earlier this month that will guarantee pay increases and bolster nursing ranks. The two issues prompted members to picket after contract talks stalled in recent months.

"It's a way for nurses to get compensated, and that's important, but nurses are concerned with care," said Jared Hanlon, a registered nurse at Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville and a member of the bargaining team for National Nurses United. "We want those reinforcements so we can maximize our efforts without being overly fatigued."

The three-year contract calls for nurse staffing levels to be set according to the severity of patients' medical condition and their stage of recovery. Committees composed of registered nurses and managers at each hospital will review staffing levels and make recommendations.

The contract also creates a salary step structure based on years of experience. The system gives credit for previous years of employment, an incentive for experienced registered nurses to remain at the hospitals, union officials said.

Some members will get as much as a 4 percent increase, others will get a combination of a salary increase and lump sum bonus, Hanlon said. That will help raise salaries at hospitals that have lagged behind the state average.

HCA also agreed to form at each hospital a professional practice committee of nurses and managers to recommend ways to improve patient care, safety and technology.

In addition to Oak Hill, the agreement applies to nurses at Largo Medical Center, St. Petersburg General, Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, and Trinity Medical Center.

"We are pleased that we were able to complete the negotiations a few weeks ago and with ratification by the members the agreement will go into effect," the company said in a prepared statement responding to specific questions from the Times.

The other Florida hospitals included in the contract are Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Fawcett Memorial in Port Charlotte, Central Florida Regional in Sanford, Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee, and Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

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