Unionized registered nurses at A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital in Presque Isle ratified a new four-year contract Thursday.
The agreement includes measures aimed at keeping more nurses and boosting safety for patients, according to the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents the local group.
Negotiations started in February between the union and the hospital. The nurses’ contract expired in March and they have been working under their expired contract pending a new agreement, union member Nicole Bridges said in May. The group at that time maintained they were understaffed and responsible for tending too many patients, and urged the hospital to increase efforts to recruit and retain more nurses.
One local union steward said the contract was a win both for patients and the nurses who care for them.
“We are proud that we fought for an agreement that includes provisions for safe staffing, which is essential for safe patient care and for recruiting and retaining nurses,” said Lori McPherson, registered nurse, in a prepared statement Friday.
The contract went into effect Thursday and runs until July 5, 2027. The agreement includes annual pay increases, improvements in health and safety such as reducing workplace violence, and efforts to increase and retain staff, according to the Maine State Nurses Association, which represents more than 150 nurses at the hospital.
Hospital officials were pleased with the news and with the level of collaboration between the parties throughout the process, said Jay Reynolds, MD, interim president of Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital.
“We’re confident that our new four-year agreement will assist us as we work to retain and recruit top talent, while also reinforcing our longstanding commitment to our team of nurses and to all those we serve,” Reynolds said Friday.
Both the hospital and unionized nurses share commitments to the safety and well-being of patients and staff, he said.
The new contract is solely between A.R. Gould and its nurses and not part of a statewide Northern Light Health agreement, said Karen Gonya, the hospital’s communications manager.
Not all Northern Light hospitals are unionized, but those that are handle their own negotiations, Gonya said.
Attempts to reach local union members Friday afternoon were not immediately successful.