To the editor:
This letter is in response to last Sunday's news article regarding the union-organization efforts at St. Francis Medical Center.
There are many nurses at St. Francis who feel we do not need a union, and we are fed up with the misleading and inaccurate information that is being put out by the union supporters.
Regarding the nurse who worked 130 hours in a two-week period and who was quoted as saying "no nurse should have to work that much": That nurse agrees to work those hours because she wants the money. The hospital shouldn't be blamed for someone's choice in wanting overtime over personal and family time. Nurses at St. Francis are not expected to work that many hours.
In response to the nurse who complained that raises should be given equally rather than by peer review: Yearly raises at St. Francis are based on performance with input from peers. What is unfair about merit raises that reward employees who work hard and perform well? It hold employees to a higher level of accountability rather than allowing someone to just slide by.
By peer review, one's performance is evaluated by those who know you best, the co-workers who are with you eight to 12 hours a day. Just developing a positive attitude would go a long way in improving job performance and relationships with co-workers.
Regarding the nurses who complained about working after their shifts end: Does anyone choose to become a nurse expecting 9-to-5 hours? Unpredictable hours and situations in the operating room and emergency room come with the territory, and those nurses are compensated for that.
Besides the market increase given to all registered nurses last year, intensive care and operating room nurses were given an extra $1 an hour, and open-heart nurses were given an extra $2 an hour. Nurses in the emergency room get a $150 bonus for working 12-hour shifts on the weekends. The situation is not nearly so bleak as the pro-union nurses lead us to believe.
Statements made by Nancy Parker, the union representative, were also misleading and based on vague "polling" figures rather than facts. No registered nurses at St. Francis are working at $13 an hour as she claims.
These are facts that were obtained by calling other hospitals:
Starting pay for a new graduate nurse at University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., a 450-bed hospital, is $14.85 an hour. At St. John's in St. Louis it is $14.25 an hour. And at St. Francis it is $14.17 an hour.
After July 1, starting pay for a new grad at St. Francis will increase to $15.17 an hour.
The salary cap for a staff nurse at University Hospital in Columbia is $24 to $25 an hour. At St. Francis it is $24.21 to $25.69 an hour.
Parker also points out that there are nurses at St. Francis who have worked there for "many years" who don't make $20 an hour. What exactly does "many years" mean? She also fails to mention that St. Francis has a career-ladder program for staff nurses, and if those nurses were willing to put out the extra effort, they would be working at a higher pay scale.
So the nursing shortage and staffing ratios appear to be the only legitimate issues at hand, and those issues have been around for years. What magic solution does the union have to offer to this nationwide problem?
It will take communication and a cooperative effort from our administration, but we believe nurses can best speak for themselves in this process. Nurses are problem solvers by nature. If given a chance, things can and will get better.SUSAN MATTHEWS
St. Francis Medical Center