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Civista Medical Center nurses have decided to strike after not receiving “substantive changes” in the hospital’s final contract offer to the unionized nurses.

The nurses voted last week to strike and picket for one day, from 6 a.m. May 8 to 6 a.m. May 9.

The Civista nurses’ union, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, informed the La Plata hospital Friday of the strike, according to a news release Civista issued Tuesday afternoon.

The final straw was management’s final offer that contained no “substantive changes” to staffing and “meager” annual wage increases that are inadequate to ensure safe staffing, said Caroline Rigo, an emergency room nurse.

“We had to take more drastic measures to protect patient care at Civista,” she said.

The Civista news release states that the final offer to nurses, rejected Wednesday, proposed increasing nursing salaries by 9.75 percent over three years, with no reductions in paid time off, pension plans or other benefits.

Civista officials have argued that the hospital’s offer is fair, and the hospital needs to be financially responsible while maintaining quality health care. Civista officials have said that there is not a safe staffing issue at the hospital.

The union has been negotiating with Civista on a new three-year labor agreement since December.

Nurses and union officials are arguing that the hospital does not have safe staffing levels for patients at the hospital, and want their labor contract to make sure that the hospital employs enough nurses and ancillary staff to care for patients.

Ancillary staff include nursing assistants, secretaries, dietary personnel and housekeepers.

The nationwide standard for staffing ratios in an intensive care unit is two patients per nurse, but Civista nurses say that they see ratios of three patients per nurse in the ICU.

Nurses also are pushing for salary increases after the hospital’s financial status has improved.

According to financial statements from the University of Maryland Medical System, with which the hospital is affiliated, Civista earned a $5.5 million profit in the first six months of fiscal 2012.

The hospital earned approximately $58.8 million in revenue and had $53.3 million in expenses, and budgeted a $2 million profit, according to the financial statements.

In the release, Civista officials said its compensation for an average full-time registered nurse is more than $77,500 per year. Benefits include 30 days paid leave, comprehensive health benefits, as well as tuition assistance, among other things.

“This offer is fair to Civista’s Registered Nurses in that it keeps their compensation at or above market levels, as well as providing reasonable annual increases for the next three years,” Civista’s release states.

The hospital’s news release does not state safe staffing as an issue in the negotiations.

In the release, Civista stated that it will be “fully operational” during the strike, as it has finished preparations to bring in “highly qualified and trained traveling nurses” during the strike.

“While SEIU nurses may leave their patients, Civista will not,” the release states.

Rigo, who has been a nurse for 23 years at the hospital, said, “A strike at Civista has been our last resort. The salary increases are not adequate to attract safe staffing levels at the hospital and protect patient care.”

She said that the nurses want to see a quality contract and safe staffing levels reflected in the final contract.

Maureen Higgins, a communication specialist with SEIU Local 1199, said she wanted to emphasize that the nurses have been working hard to avoid a strike, and that the strike is about sending a message to Civista management.

Nurses held a rally April 14 in La Plata to raise awareness about what they call unsafe staffing at the hospital, and featured several nurses and union members speaking in support of Civista nurses and safe staffing levels at the hospital.

pwarner@somdnews.com