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RGH calls for federal mediator to help with negotiating first contract for unionized nurses
file photo
Rochester General Hospital.

Rochester General Hospital officials this week called for a federal mediator to join the negotiations between the hospital and its unionized nurses.

Nurses at RGH voted a year ago to organize, forming RUNAP, the Rochester Union of Allied Nurses and Professions.

But without a contract having been reached yet, on Tuesday the hospital called for a federal mediator to join the negotiations.

Hospital officials said the talks began last October, but the two parties remain apart on a number of issues.

Jennifer Eslinger is President of Health Care Operations and Chief Operating Officer for Rochester Regional Health. She believes both parties are negotiating in good faith, but said that talks are just not moving quickly enough.

“These situations can create a angst and unrest and uncertainty and there’s enough of that in healthcare right now, we just thought the mediator may be able to help us move things along at a little faster clip than we’ve been able to,” said Eslinger.

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The president of RUNAP, Carmen Camelio, said one of the main issues is improving the staff-to-patient ratios, which he feels would be helped if RGH could be more competitive with some other hospitals on wages and benefits.

“We need some way to entice them back so that we can achieve the safe patient ratios, which we’re trying to get into the contract so that we can hold the administration accountable to them,” said Camelio.

Camelio said the union welcomes the assistance of a mediator but he also said that nurses are prepared to strike to ensure patients get the care they deserve.

He said that his members have not yet authorized a strike in response to the contract dispute, but he added that, “unfortunately, it does feel like that’s where we’re headed.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.