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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Sacred Heart nurses: Providence pursuing maximum profit at expense of local workers


Keep what you earn: It’s a basic idea, familiar to anyone who’s picked up a paycheck.

The corporate leaders of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center seem to think that keeping what you earn is unreasonable. The 1,900 nurses at the hospital have spent the last 11 months trying to explain this reality to them, to no avail.

The nurses still don’t have a contract after 13 negotiating sessions. We don’t have a contract because Providence, an out-of-town corporation, is determined to pursue maximum profit at the expense of its staff and steadfastly refuses our common-sense proposals to keep patients and nurses safe.

The Seattle suits are pushing a corporate template on Providence-owned hospitals up and down the West Coast: Slash earned sick time, earned paid time off and other benefits nurses have earned – some over many years of service.

Sacred Heart has always been Spokane’s hospital. Our hospital. We take pride in taking care of our community and their families when they are sick and need extra care. This hospital refuses to honor that creed of care so we can take care of our own families when they are in need.

The proposed cuts literally tell nurses they can’t keep what they’ve already earned. They make a mockery of Sacred Heart’s mission. It’s a slap in the face to hospital staff.

We expect to keep what we’ve earned. Meanwhile, Providence resists our efforts to improve contractual staffing guarantees so that we ensure that our patients get the care they deserve. Nurses want to implement safety measures so that patients, their families and nurses are safe while at the hospital.

That’s why you’re hearing about a possible strike at Sacred Heart. Nurses don’t want to take that step, but the corporate mindset of Providence leaders is rigid. The prospect of a strike seems to be the only thing that gets their attention.

We will take appropriate measures to make sure our patients receive the care they need if it happens. We will never leave our patients without the critical care they need.

Earned sick time, earned paid time off and safe staffing aren’t luxuries; they’re the foundation of any hospital, the necessary bedrock that provides stability and predictability, not just for nurses but for the patients who rely on their care.

We see patients in their most fragile moments, families in times of their greatest distress and need. Safe staffing ensures that nurses don’t burn out from the daily stresses of their vital duties. When a hospital stretches its resources too thinly in shortsighted attempts to maximize profit, patients are the real losers.

Our earned paid time off, which again we have earned, keeps us safe and recharged for our patients. It allows us to preserve a necessary balance between the challenges of working and living.

We live and work in this community. We raise our families here. Our children attend the same schools as our patients. We go to the same soccer games and community functions as our neighbors.

Sadly, Sacred Heart nurses aren’t alone. The Providence corporate takeover in Spokane is repeating itself at many hospitals up and down the West Coast. Resisting measures that will enhance patient care and safety and maximizing profit seem to be a Providence signature.

While we fight to keep what we’ve earned, Providence has pocketed nearly $1 billion in the first half of 2019 alone. That’s $5.3 million in profits each day! CEO Rod Hochman made more than $10 million in 2017. In fact, Hochman got a 157 percent pay increase between 2015 and 2017.

In a sense, the Providence strategy has paid off for itself and its executives, though not for the communities it serves.

David Emerson and Clint Wallace are registered nurses at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center who are represented by the Washington State Nurses Association. WSNA represents more than 1,900 nurses at the hospital.