Nurses Win $13.6 Million Settlement Aimed at Boosting Recruitment, Retention in Detroit-Area Hospitals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Published 10:34 AM Eastern - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

St. John's Health System Settles Class Action Lawsuit Over Conspiring to Suppress Wages for RNs

Similar Lawsuits Pending Against Hospitals in Albany, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and San Antonio

DETROIT -- Nurses in the Detroit area are celebrating a settlement that has been reached with St. John's Health System of a class action lawsuit brought to expose attempts by area hospitals to hold down wages for nurses despite an ongoing shortage of RNs wiling to work in acute care hospitals.

The proposed $13.6 million settlement with St. John's, a system of seven hospitals in the Detroit area, is pending before a federal judge.

"This good news for everyone in Detroit who looks to these hospitals to provide quality care. Patients get better care when nurses have the staffing we need to meet their needs. A big part of fixing the nursing shortage will be investing in a quality nurse workforce and paying wages that reward their skills fairly," said Cathy Glasson, RN, of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU.

Nurses filed lawsuits in 2006 against hospitals in Albany, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and San Antonio after research showed that nurses' real wages are not rising despite ongoing shortages of staff nurses in hospitals. Nurses assert that hospitals are colluding to hold down wages instead of boosting pay to recruit and retain enough nurses to provide higher quality care.

Earlier in March 2009, the Albany, New York-based Northeast Health system settled the suit. A federal judge in Michigan rejected an attempt by Mount Clemens General Hospital to have the case dismissed.

According to a report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research commissioned by the Nurse Alliance of SEIU, over 1.2 million nursing positions will need to be filled nationally over the next five years. The report shows that the shortage is due in part to artificially low wages caused by collusion among hospital employers. A growing body of research has linked nurse staffing to the quality of patient outcomes in hospitals.

The Nurse Alliance of SEIU has played a leading role in supporting empirical research that has exposed the national problem of employer collusion around nurse wages, shown the link between wage levels and the shortage of bedside nurses, and demonstrated the importance of staffing levels for improving patient care.

With more than 84,000 nurses in 23 states, the Nurse Alliance of SEIU is one of the largest nurse organizations in the country. Through the Nurse Alliance, nurses are uniting across the country to pursue any and all solutions to bring nurses back to the bedside and raise the standard of care, from enforcement of existing laws, to calling for new legislation protecting nurses and patients, to giving nurses a voice in the delivery of patient care.

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