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‘It’s a relief’: St. Charles Bend nurses talk about new contract’s impacts and their future at the hospital

Nurse says the situation has improved, even before a ratification vote

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After more than 40 hours of talks between the nurses union and St. Charles Bend, a tentative contract agreement was reached early Thursday. Nurse leaders met with reporters at the Campfire Hotel in Bend on Friday afternoon to talk about the new contract and its impacts.

Erin Harrington has been a nurse at the Bend hospital for six years.

"It's a relief," she said. "It's been a long road. We've been working on this since December," when talks began as the previous contract ran out. 

After 40-plus hours of marathon talks over two days earlier this week,  nurse negotiators are celebrating their accomplishment of reaching the tentative contract agreement.

They cite major, even historic progress in three key areas -- recruitment of new nurses to work at St. Charles, retention of the nurses already employed, and more assured rest and meal breaks (or payments if they are missed). 

For workers like John Nangle, who has been with the health system for over 20 years, job security is crucial. 

"One big thing that was important to us was job security," Nangle said. "So we retained that, secure that in the contract. Any nurse that might be looking to come here is going to know that if St. Charles did sell the organization, their jobs are going to be safe." 

Harrington said she believes the new contract is already having positive impacts, despite not being voted on yet. 

"I was at the gym this morning, and a nurse that had left the bedside after Covid said, 'I'm going to come back to the bedside.'"

Harrington said a town hall was held Thursday night, and union members and nurses came up to her to say "Thank you -- I can stay now."

Nurses also secured more mental health visits -- the Caregiver Assistance Program for people who are burnt out from the pandemic's impacts. Nurses used to have up to three covered visits annually, and now everyone will have 12. 

After the contract is posted for nurses to review, everyone will have five days to read it. Voting on the contract is expected to take place late next week.

Nangle added, "I think people are very elated to have this over, and I'm sure the community and the nurses feel that this is a great time to celebrate. And it's going to be a meaningful change for our community hospital."

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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