Nurses at Regina Medical Center in Hastings will hold a candlelight vigil tonight, keeping hope alive for a new contract with the hospital that retains the level of nursing care the Hastings community expects.
The vigil will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the intersection of Highways 55 and 61. Nurses also will collect contributions of money, non-perishable food or clothing for Hastings Family Service at the event.
The current contract between Regina nurses, who are members of the Minnesota Nurses Association, and the hospital will expire Dec. 31.
This is the first contract Regina nurses have attempted to bargain since Allina Health purchased Regina earlier this year, and nurses have bristled at disparities between the contract Allina is offering them and contracts at other Allina facilities in the Twin Cities Metro Area.
“I think they want to get us on the cheap,” said Jane Traynor, a Regina nurse and chair of the MNA bargaining team. “It’s an inferior offer, and we’re not second-rate nurses at Regina.”
MNA and hospital systems, including Allina, operate a joint pension plan for nurses in the seven-county Metro Area, which includes Hastings. MNA members at Allina facilities in the Metro Area also have the option of enrolling in the union’s health-insurance plan, rather than accepting Allina’s corporate plan.
Those are benefits Allina extended to nurses after taking over hospitals in Buffalo, Cambridge and River Falls, Wis., Traynor said. But Allina has so far refused to extend the same benefits to Regina nurses during ongoing contract negotiations.
Traynor, who has worked at Regina for 21 years, said she worries that if Regina nurses accept a second-rate contract, it will create a second-rate level of care for residents of the Hastings area.
“The pension and health insurance nurses have in the Metro is an excellent recruitment and retention tool to keep qualified nurses,” she said. “Because we’re so close to the Metro in Hastings, the qualified people we have, they won’t stay, and Allina won’t be able to recruit qualified people to take care of our patients here in the community.”
For that reason, Traynor said she expects to see plenty of community members at tonight’s vigil.
“Allina has made commitments to the community of Hastings,” she said. “They’ve talked about expanding services, providing more specialists, a new clinic and rebuilding our emergency department.
“If they consider the Regina nurses second rate and inferior, I question their commitment to following through on those commitments to the community.”