BAR HARBOR — Stalled negotiations between union nurses and Mount Desert Island Hospital (MDIH) administrators led approximately two dozen people to picket in front of the Wayman Lane facility June 26.
The registered nurses (RNs), who are represented by the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MSNA/NNU), have been negotiating with hospital leadership for a new collective bargaining agreement since March. They have been without a contract since May 12. The last negotiating sessions, run by a federal mediator, wrapped up without resolution on June 16.
“We are disappointed that despite our best attempts to reach an agreement, we are currently at an impasse over financial issues,” hospital spokesperson Oka Hutchins said via email. “As of June 16, we have made our final offer. The union has until July 16 to accept this offer.”
Speaking at the picket, RN Dorris Plummer said that the nurses are insisting that a schedule be set for replacement of aging computers. The nurses’ computers-on-wheels (COWs) are more than a decade old, out of date and frequently breaking down, imperiling patient safety, she said.
Hutchins said that hospital administrators have accepted the union’s position concerning computer upgrades. The two sides have failed to complete negotiations because of a disagreement over wages, she added.
“In our last session, we agreed to the union’s proposed language for enhanced collaboration over the acquisition of new technology, leaving financial issues the stumbling block,” Hutchins said. “We regret the position we, and most of our hospital colleagues, are facing in not being able to provide additional funds this year to all of our staff, recognizing the outstanding work they all do.”
The RNs also are protesting the hospital’s reliance on remote pharmacists during the weekends, Plummer said. The use of these pharmacists, who review medications and answer questions via the Internet, often results in errors and causes unnecessary safety risks to patients, Plummer claimed.