Territorial Board concerned Schneider has not yet given pay raises to nurses

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ST. THOMAS - The majority of a Territorial Hospital Board meeting on Wednesday was conducted in executive session that included a discussion about raises that the Luis Hospital board gave to its registered nurses earlier this month.

Those raises have not been implemented at Schneider Regional - and officials suggested that the St. Thomas hospital may not be able to come up with the money to fund them.

Citing a critical nursing shortage and public need, the Luis Hospital board voted Jan. 11 to implement significant raises for its RNs. The raises are contained in a proposed collective bargaining agreement with the V.I. State Nurses Association. The proposed collective bargaining agreement has not been executed because not all parties have signed.

In a summary of executive session for Wednesday's territorial board meeting, chairwoman Lynn Millin-Maduro said the discussion included the potential adverse impact that implementing the raises might have on finances at Schneider Regional.

"There were concerns as far as the ability to entertain those increases," Millin-Maduro said. "It was a basic discussion on what the impact may be to the St. Thomas hospital, because they're not at a point where they can implement them."

The discussion also involved the proposed collective bargaining agreement itself, Millin-Maduro said. The old agreement is still in effect because the new, proposed one has not yet been executed, she said.

After the meeting, Schneider Regional interim Chief Executive Officer Angela Rennalls-Atkinson said that the Virgin Islands State Nurses Association has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the Public Employees Relations Board related to the hospital's not implementing pay raises.

"We have asked staff to go back and look at a number of options for coming up with the funding to implement pay raises," Schneider Regional board Chairman Cornel Williams said after the meeting. "In light of the fact that we are losing money - I mean, we are operating in the red month after month - and given that situation, options are going to be very limited."

Luis Hospital has been struggling with major nursing vacancies that have led to longer wait times in the emergency room, fewer available inpatient beds, increased patient complaints and elevated concerns about the ability to deliver safe patient care, according to a "statement of public need" that the Luis board entered into the record before voting to go ahead with the raises, even though the collective bargaining agreement has not been implemented.

The move to give nurses a raise at Luis was aimed at quickly attracting and retaining more staff nurses.

- Daily News reporter Amanda Norris contributed to this report.

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