Nurses, MDI hospital at impasse

BAR HARBOR — Approximately 75 registered nurses working at Mount Desert Island Hospital remain without a collective bargaining agreement four months after contract negotiations with hospital officials began.

The two sides have not met since mid-June. Representatives of each portray the impasse in a slightly different light. Vanessa Sylvester of the Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA) says the contract negotiations are stalled because hospital officials will not include nurses in critical equipment decisions, while hospital officials say the split is over money.

Sylvester said Monday that RNs at the hospital feel they do not have enough say regarding the purchase and use of new patient care technology, and that because their voices are not being heard, patient safety is at risk.

Hospital officials said, however, that they have agreed to the request for more involvement with decisions involving technology and that the negotiations with the MSNA remain bogged down over money.

“In our last session, we agreed to the union’s proposed language for enhanced collaboration regarding the acquisition of new technology and to maintain an active dialog regarding research, implementation, training/education and its effect on patient care/safety and staffing,” hospital spokesperson Oka Hutchins said in an email statement Tuesday. “At this time, the only outstanding issues are those regarding compensation.”

Sylvester said that hospital officials have not given the union what they are asking for regarding nurses’ input into technology and safety issues. Sylvester also said that the compensation issue was not a major sticking point. “At this point in the negotiations, the difference in economics is very minimal,” she said.

Hospital officials made what they called their final offer in mid-June and gave the MSNA until July 16 to accept it. The offer included a 4-percent wage increase over the next three years.

The two sides have not met since mid-June. Sylvester said her organization is ready to sit down, but hospital officials have refused to do so.

Under federal law, the RNs will continue to work at the hospital under the terms of their expired contract. Officials said that the public has no reason to worry or doubt the level of service they might receive at the facility.

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Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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