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SPOKANE: Nurses say it is time for Provi­dence Sacred Heart to put nurse and patient safety before corpo­rate profits. That’s why hundreds of regis­tered nurses, patients and supporters are rallying together in the cold and calling on Provi­dence to listen to Sacred Heart nurses.

As a nurse, I have my patients’ backs, no matter what, but now I feel like I work for a big corpo­ra­tion that doesn’t have my back,” said KT Raley-Jones, a cardiac inten­sive care nurse at Sacred Heart. It wasn’t always this way. Sacred Heart hospital used to be one big family, built on the values of the sisters of Provi­dence. Now it is as if Provi­dence thinks Sacred Heart is a business that provides health care on the side.”

After little movement from Provi­dence during 7 contract bargaining sessions over 4 months, the 1,900 regis­tered nurses at Sacred Heart are taking their concerns about nurse staffing and safe patient care to the commu­nity they serve. The nurses are demanding:

  • Safe staffing levels: Nurses want each unit in Sacred Heart Medical Center’s facil­i­ties to maintain staffing levels, including during meal and rest periods, that ensure safe patient care and the safety of the nurses. This includes safe staffing on the hospital floor, but also staffing that allows nurses to take rest and meal breaks. It includes adequate staffing so that nurses can take their paid time off.
  • Safe, rested nurses: Nursing is a physi­cally, emotion­ally and mentally taxing job, with nurses working 10- or even 12-hour shifts around the clock. Nurses need and deserve time to spend with family and friends, to take a vacation and to recharge. They need to be able to stay home when they’re sick.
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If we thought what Provi­dence wanted would help our patients, we’d do it,” said Clint Wallace, an ICU nurse at Sacred Heart. We’d do anything to save more lives and heal more people because we’re nurses. That’s why we got into these jobs. But when I’m working through entire shifts with no break or can’t take time off, it isn’t just bad for me, it’s bad for my patients.”

I was a Sacred Heart patient a few years ago,” said Brian Walter, a Spokane construc­tion worker. I was going in and out of conscious­ness due to a severely high fever caused by a severe case of pneumonia. Sacred Heart nurses were there to help save my life. Provi­dence should stop putting profits over patient safety and take care of our nurses like they take care of their patients.”

We consider Sacred Heart to be a commu­nity hospital, but we’re all impacted as family members and patients when Provi­dence doesn’t take care of their nurses,” said Tina Morrison, Secre­tary-Treasurer of the Spokane Regional Labor Council.

This is not the first time Provi­dence has tried to put profits over nurse and patient safety,” explained Jan Bussert, Presi­dent of the Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion, which repre­sents more than 17,000 nurses. Across Washington we hear of Provi­dence suits from Seattle coming in to local contract negoti­a­tions and demanding nurses sacri­fice more, more and more, ultimately putting patient safety on the line. We won’t let them do this to the nurses and patients at Sacred Heart.”