UVM Medical Center, nurses reach tentative labor deal


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University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington has reached a tentative contract agreement with the union representing about 1,800 licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

The three-year tentative agreement, reached Sept. 19, includes a 16 percent average base salary increase over the life of the contract, according to hospital officials. They said raises for ambulatory nurses will be retroactive to the first pay period in September.

Additionally, the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals conceded on its previously proposed increases to certain shift differentials as part of the deal.

The tentative agreement comes after six months of bargaining and demonstrations by nurses, including a 48-hour strike in July. Both sides said they were pleased they were able to make progress.

“We are looking forward to implementing the many positive changes that result from the new contract, which will enhance patient care, provide additional support for nurses and allow for new opportunities to advance the nursing profession,” hospital officials told Becker’s.

Molly Wallner, lead negotiator for the union, said: “We are proud of the unity, strength and perseverance our nurses have shown. This has been a long and difficult road for all of us, and we are proud of what we have accomplished. Our fight for patient safety is not over, and we will continue that fight through the [state] legislature.”

Nurses are expected to vote on the tentative agreement soon.



Fitch: Nonprofit hospital balance sheet metrics improve, operating margins don’t


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U.S. nonprofit hospitals continue to struggle with operating margins, but key balance sheet metrics have improved, according to Fitch Ratings.

Fitch’s 2018 hospital median report, based on audited 2017 data, shows operating margins declined for the second consecutive year in every rating category. The 2017 median operating margin was 1.9 percent compared to 2.8 percent in 2016.

But the agency said key balance sheet metrics, such as days cash on hand, cash to debt and leverage, got better and are at all-time highs. For example, the median days cash on hand climbed from 195.5 in 2016 to 213.9 in 2017, and cash to debt increased to 159 percent from 142.8 percent year over year.
“Despite this apparent contradiction — which may be temporary in nature — the clear signal through the noise is that operating margins remain under pressure for the second year in a row, indicating ongoing stress in the sector,” Fitch said.

The agency said the ongoing operating margin struggles are attributable to salary and wage expense pressures, increasing pharmaceutical costs, and the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care.

Fitch finalized rating criteria changes for nonprofit hospitals revenue debt in January, which focus more on balance sheet strength compared to operating profitability. Even with declining operating margins, Fitch said its median rating for nonprofit hospitals remains ‘A.”

But “should operational pressures continue for an extended period of time, even strong balance sheets will begin to come under pressure,” said Fitch Senior Director Kevin Holloran.