Registered nurses in three central Florida hospitals have voted to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Florida, an affiliate of National Nurses United, the country’s biggest union and professional association of registered nurses.

The three health facilities are located in New Port Richey, Sanford and Kissimmee,  and belong to the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America, HCA.

Ed Russo, the media contact for National Nurses in Florida, tells The Florida Independent that the union started started in 2008, and in 2010 led a legislative campaign to pass House Bill 1283 the Florida Hospital Patient Protection Act, which included the creation of a  mandatory patient-to-nurse ratio. The bill did not pass, and faced the opposition of the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Nurses Association.

The Florida Hospital Association defines itself as a leading voice in Tallahassee. It represents 184 hospitals and health systems, 17 professional management groups and over 1,500 professional members from across the state. The Florida Nurses Association, meanwhile, is a member of the American Nurses Association, and “is the only nursing organization representing ALL of nursing regardless of specialty or practice area.”

According to Russo, calls for a minimum two-to-one patient-to-nurse ratio is crucial to patient safety in intensive care units.

“On medical surgical floors, where patients are recovering, it would be one nurse for every four patients, but you have up to seven patients for one nurse,” Russo says, adding that the no. 1 labor issue for the union is staffing because it not only impacts patient safety but also overall working conditions for nurses.

He points out that other priorities include pensions for registered nurses who face high occupational hazards as well as wages, which are low compared to states similar to Florida.

National Nurses will continue its organizing campaign in two other HCA facilities: Fawcett Memorial in Port Charlotte and Largo Medical north of Tampa.

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