The Oregon Nurses Association represents the more than 900 nurses at Rogue Regional. The tentative agreement was approved at the end of October after more than four months of negotiations. It includes an immediate $10 per hour pay increase, as well as a 4% raise in 2024 and 2025.
Nurses Association spokesperson Kevin Mealy said wages at Rogue Regional were far lower than other hospitals in the state, including St. Charles Bend which is similar to Rogue Regional in terms of its size and level of services.
“It’s difficult to even get into the conversation, to show them what’s great about the Rogue Valley if you’re so far behind the market in terms of wages,” he said.
“Asante and the Oregon Nurses Association have reached a tentative agreement on a 3-year contract renewal. We appreciate all of our caregivers as we continue the high quality and compassionate services Asante provides to the region,” Asante spokesperson Lauren Van Sickle wrote in a statement.
The agreement also includes limits on travel nurses who are employed to fill short-term staffing needs and who are often paid more than permanent nurses.
“The problem with travel nurses is they’re here today, gone tomorrow,” Mealy said. “So they cost more and typically help the hospital and patients less because they don’t know all the systems and programs.”
Mealy said Rogue Regional has relied heavily on travel nurses lately to fill more than 300 empty positions. The hospital will also need an additional 350 nurses for an upcoming expansion, Mealy said.
Under this contract, they’d be limited to just 10% of nurses at the hospital. And they’ll be required to transition to a permanent position if they work at the hospital for 12 months or more within a period of 18 months.
Both these restrictions and the wage increases are meant to encourage hiring more permanent nurses.
The union was unable to secure lower costs or greater access to health care services for nurses using Asante’s health care plan. Mealy said they were able to create a committee to advocate for those goals for nurses.
The tentative agreement heads to a vote by all Rogue Regional nurses on Friday. If approved, the new contract will be effective through September 2026.