The registered nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital have approved a new contract that could bring significant improvements for them and their patients.

This new collective bargaining agreement will provide a new retiree health plan that provides financial security for retiring RNs and helps to assist in nurse retention and protection for RNs and patients during communicable disease outbreaks, such as the recent H1N1 flu epidemic.

Also, it will allow RNs to take a leave of absence for disaster-relief deployments with the certified nursing assistant's Registered Nurse Response Network, assist in efforts to add more support staff and provide a 3 percent wage increase through December 1, when the contract is to be reopened to bargain about wages for the rest of the contract.

This new contract also ensures that the nurses' night-shift, on-call and call-back pay will be on par with other area hospitals.

"As always, our commitment is to preserve safe staffing levels so we can deliver quality patient care in PVH and for the rest of the community," said Lucinda Lofftus, an intensive-care nurse and a member of the negotiating team. "This contract builds on our goal of safe staffing, and nurses turned out in strong numbers to approve our new agreement."

Bargaining between the CNA's RN negotiating team and hospital officials began in September.

The CNA represents 180 RNs at PVH, which is operated by St. Joseph Health System, based in Orange.

— Argus-Courier Staff