Update: CBA Negotiation Sessions 4

Update: CBA Negotiation Sessions 4

Today and tomorrow, the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) and National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) are again meeting to negotiate over terms for our new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

This week’s sessions are largely focused on the important issue of staffing. This morning, we were pleased to hear directly from UCMC nurses, who shared stories of staffing and other challenges.

We will spend more time looking into the broader implications of some of those stories.  We were able to respond to a number of the identified challenges with good news.  For example, we heard from several nurses that periodic ICU bed shortages have put strains on nurses when patients are waiting for ICU beds.  As some nurses may know, UCMC notified NNOC/NNU in early April that UCMC would convert CCD 8S (currently a med-surge unit) into a new permanent ICU unit with 22 associated full-time nursing positions and relocate the med-surg beds currently located there to other available space.  It was the right decision for patients and nurses that should help us meet this identified need.

Another concern raised was the challenge some nurses face locating pumps. The distribution of equipment can be a challenge for any hospital. Please know UCMC has approximately 1,575 pumps for our 811 licensed beds and outpatient areas. On any particular day, no more than 70% of our pumps have been used, giving us a significant reserve when pumps are returned. But we remain committed to addressing concerns, and believe the recent purchase of an additional 47 pumps will allow us to pre-position more equipment and help ensure patient needs are met.

On the topic of nurse staffing ratios, it is important to note that the Illinois Legislature continues to debate this complex and nuanced issue. Each patient, unit and nurse in our Medical Center is different, and we know that needs change often — even hourly or at a moment’s notice. We also recognize that our care teams must have the ability to make critical, life-saving decisions moment-to-moment for our patients and our South Side neighbors.

Together, we have developed a model that allows our teams to flex and address patient acuity and other situation-specific needs in real-time. This has encouraged collaboration, fostered opportunities for innovation and professional development, and leveraged resources efficiently and effectively to ensure we provide quality care. Through our Nursing Acuity Committee, nurses and leaders assess actual and potential patient volumes, the unique skillset required to meet patient needs, and unit-level staffing trends.

A mandatory staffing ratio would remove our care teams’ flexibility and decision-making autonomy and could limit patient and community access to our Medical Center.  It would create a rigid system that ignores the significant involvement our nurses already have in our care model, as well as the processes we have in place to protect and support our teams and serve our patients and the community. This type of approach is also in direct conflict with the work of our Shared Governance structure, which has empowered bedside nurses to participate in decision-making and allowed us to remain a top Medical Center to give and receive safe, high-quality and compassionate care.

Ensuring patient safety is our top priority at all times. We know that care for our patients and the South Side community is best determined by the caregiving team — not by a fixed formula imposed from outside the care team that treats patients and what you do as numbers in a formula.

UCMC remains committed to respectful dialogue and good faith bargaining to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable and allows us to continue to deliver the level of high-quality, compassionate, and affordable care that our patients expect and deserve.

We will continue these discussions tomorrow and will update you on the facts about negotiations throughout this process.