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Nursing union says Big Island hospital pay gap is a safety hazard

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Nurses at Queen’s North Hawaiʻi Community Hospital in Waimea were not able to reach an agreement with corporate management at their meeting last week.

The Big Island hospital has been struggling to recruit new nurses. Queen's Health System nurses on Hawaiʻi Island are paid less than those on Oʻahu.

Hawaiʻi Nurses' Association President Daniel Ross calls the pay gap a safety hazard.

"It's not safe the way they're operating right now. We do not believe that it's safe. The nurses are doing the best they can with what they have, but there are too few of them. They work too short," Ross said.

"The patients that are supposed to be on continuous cardiac monitors — that means somebody should be continuously watching their heart rhythm on a monitor — they can't. The nurses are too busy with other patients to be continuously monitoring it," Ross told HPR.

The nurses at Queen’s North Hawaiʻi held an informational picketing in front of the hospital on Saturday. Over 30 nurses attended.

Queen's said in a statement, "Our pledge throughout these negotiations has been to bargain in good faith to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that provides wage increases and other improvements that support our nurses and their profession. We continue to have constructive conversations with HNA and have taken great care to listen and consider every proposal that has been submitted by the union’s bargaining team."

HNA will have another meeting with Queen’s management through a federal mediator over Zoom on Thursday, April 28.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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