After multiple protests about nurse staffing ratios, Auburn Community Hospital and 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East union have reached a three-year labor contract.

The agreement, ratified by a vote on Oct. 31, addresses wage increases and benefits as well as staffing ratios at the 99-bed hospital, according to a release from ACH. The current contract with nurses expired in July. 

"After weeks of negotiations and a productive labor management relationship, 1199SEIU nurses at Auburn Community Hospital are pleased to have settled our contract," said Nancy Benton, a registered nurse and the union's chair, in a release. "Important improvements to our staffing ratios will allow all of us to reach our common goal of providing quality care and ensuring a great patient experience at our hospital." 

The hospital nor the union provided specific details on how the staffing ratios have changed or of the contract, which covers 180 employees out of the hospital's approximately 1,080.

In an interview with The Citizen in September, the union's vice chair Ken Spurgeon said the staffing ratios at the hospital were below the national levels of care. Spurgeon and many of his fellow employees also appeared at a Cayuga County Legislature meeting in September, telling the government body that more than 50 percent of the time, ACH is short on nursing staff.

In a statement to The Citizen on Wednesday, Spurgeon said the hospital's management has recognized the need to recruit and retain quality nurses.

"In light of that, a joint committee of managers and staff will gather routinely in an effort to ensure we are meeting the needs of OUR community," Spurgeon wrote. "We look forward to continuing this collaborative relationship to provide a quality hospital for our community."

ACH President and CEO Scott Berlucchi echoed Spurgeon's sentiments in a release. 

"Auburn Community Hospital prides itself on its history of union collaboration," he said. "We also recognize that the process of reaching an agreement during a contract negotiation is not always an easy one. The one thing that has remained consistent throughout this process is our profound respect for the nurses because of their unwavering dedication and commitment to our patients and our community."

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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County Government Reporter