Nurses make their case

We expect Carson-Tahoe Hospital nurses will eventually get their own union, if patient care is the prime consideration.

Whether patient care decides the question remains to be seen, but it seems to us that the nurses have made their case and the hospital, so far, has not.

The issue will go to an issues management board next month. A headline in Wednesday's edition of the Appeal ("No union for Carson-Tahoe nurses") overstated the situation. At this point, hospital administrators have rejected the idea of a separate union for nurses, but the matter is by no means dead.

Currently, an association represents all employees at the hospital. Many nurses have said they need a separate bargaining unit to address issues such as the quality of patient care, stress, efficiency and safety. They are calling for representation by Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3.

At this point, the hospital's response has been that "the current 'wall to wall' bargaining unit is the most appropriate unit for the hospital's interest ...."

If that remains the main thrust of the administration's argument, then it will lose - and deservedly so.

The nurses are framing the debate in the interests of patient care. Isn't that supposed to be a public hospital's main concern? Certainly. Unless administrators somehow show that patients will somehow be treated worse because of a separate union agreement, then the nurses can raise their flag on that point.

Hospital administrators would be remiss, of course, if they weren't watching the bottom line. Carson-Tahoe Hospital belongs to the taxpayers of Carson City, but it continues to operate on its own revenue and has not had to dip into public funds.

In fact, the hospital has been flush in recent years. It has undertaken extensive expansion programs, very successfully at its rehabilitation center and at the hospital itself. It also became embroiled in the money pit known as Valley Meadows Care Center.

While it won't always be true, these are not tight times for Carson-Tahoe Hospital. Arguing that it shouldn't have to deal with a nurses union sounds more like a matter of convenience than finance.

And neither convenience nor finance trump the card held by nurses: patient care.


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