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Austin Ascension Seton nurses picket amid union contract negotiation

A group of nurses gathered outside the medical center in the rain Thursday morning to call for better staffing and resources.

AUSTIN, Texas — Nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin (ASMCA) want union contract negotiations to move along faster.

A group of nurses gathered outside the medical center in the rain Thursday morning to call for better staffing and resources.

"We've always held a very high standard for a high quality of care. And over the years, they've kind of taken away more resources from us – ancillary staff, supplies, etc. – and just kind of wanted us to keep those high standards of care working with less," said Megan Meier, an ICU nurse with Asension Seton.

The nurses have reported regular disruptions to patient care, saying that chronic short staffing has made it challenging to provide the highest quality of care in a timely fashion. The nurses say the conditions have led to a "revolving door of new graduates being hired, receiving their hands on-training at ASMCA and then leaving the hospital and even the bedside due to moral distress,"  according to a press release from the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU).

The nurses have been in union contract negotiations since November. They voted to form a union last September, making ASMCA the largest private-sector hospital in Texas to form a union, according to the NNOC/NNU release.

"We want better nurse-to-patient ratios that way we can provide adequate care for our parents," said Monica Gonzalez, a registered nurse for 19 years.

"I'm really excited that we've come together today to show Ascension that what we're doing is important. They need to listen to our voices."

KVUE reached out to Ascension Seton for a comment on the nurses' concerns. The health care provider shared the following statement:

"We respect the right of unions to hold an informational assembly outside our facility. As with any event of this kind, the safety and security of our patients, visitors, associates, physicians and picketers is our first priority. This is not a strike/work stoppage event and will not impact patient care.

As healthcare systems across the U.S. continue to experience nursing shortages, we have a robust workforce development program focused on recruiting and retaining nurses through our residency and fellowship program, our nurse scholarship program and partnerships with more than 40 schools of nursing. 

We continue to bargain in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial agreement on our RN contract. When bargaining an initial collective bargaining agreement, it is a longer process due to having to negotiate all terms of the contract, and based on data, can take well over a year to complete. Our ongoing goal is to support all of our associates in a just and equitable manner as we continue to provide safe, compassionate care to those we are privileged to serve."

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