IRMC and Nurse’s Union at Impasse After Seven Months of Bargaining

INDIANA, PA  – After seven months and 26 bargaining sessions, many held in the presence of a federal mediator, Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC) declared this evening that an impasse in negotiations has been reached between IRMC and IRNA/PSEA Healthcare (IRNA), the union representing 380 hospital nurses. IRMC’s declaration of impasse followed IRNA making a regressive bargaining proposal after IRNA rejected IRMC’s Last, Best and Final Offer.

IRMC made its Last, Best and Final Offer on February 18, 2019.  Since then, the parties have met two more times.  Both meetings ended with IRNA rejecting IRMC’s Last, Best and Final Offer and making no meaningful movement to break the parties’ stalemate.

Over the course of the negotiations, hospital officials cited losses from its last fiscal year of $4.3 million, and in the current fiscal year through January, another loss of $2.6 million, to date.  IRMC’s patient census is down 10 percent. The drop in census is a condition being felt by other Pennsylvania hospitals. Despite the fact that IRMC has been doing many of the right things to remain a viable independent hospital, it must be able to avoid operating losses.

Since the outset of negotiations, hospital officials have been clear with union representatives that changes in healthcare costs and other benefits would be necessary in order to avoid ongoing losses that could affect IRMC’s independence.

“It is unfortunate that the union cannot grasp the reality that every hospital must change its cost structure, especially with regard to healthcare benefit contributions,” said Mark Richards, chief growth officer for IRMC. “Even with the proposed increase in healthcare costs, the hospital will continue to subsidize most of the cost of healthcare premiums.”

Last, Best and Final Offer

IRMC’s Last, Best and Final Offer is for a three-year contract with a very competitive 6.5 percent increase in wages over the term that would increase the average hourly rate for staff registered nurses to $34.23, a rate higher than most other hospitals in the region. The proposal also requires a transition to an industry standard Paid-Time-Off (PTO) program that provides one flexible bank of time that can be used for vacations, sick days and other time off, including personal time.  The amount of PTO is based on service and ranges from 16 days to 30 days of PTO for the most senior employees. Total PTO days offered in this new system is competitive with other healthcare employers in the region and with national benchmarks. In addition, IRMC has offered that employees with current sick leave time would have that time transferred into an extended illness bank (EIB) that may be used in the event of a longer term illness or injury.  IRMC also has offered to add up to 4 EIB days each year.

The rising cost of healthcare insurance has become a more serious economic issue for IRMC that must be addressed by increases in employee monthly premiums, which in the case of IRMC, would still remain lower than other hospitals in the region.  IRMC has offered three health insurance plans that would require employee contributions ranging from 10% for individual coverage for full-time employees to a maximum of 20% for family coverage for part-time employees effective July 1, 2019.  IRMC has offered to continue to provide health care benefits for its part-time nurses, although may other employers do not.

Mark Richards stated, “Our Board and community leaders recognize the need to make changes in order for IRMC to remain a viable community hospital in the future.  We would not ask to make changes if it was not necessary.  We absolutely value our registered nurses and are confident that IRMC will be able recruit and retain nurses with the compensation and benefit package we are offering. This is all about everyone getting on the same page and putting the long-term interests of our community first.”