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D.C. Nurses Still At Odds With Hospital Over Wages, Patient Care

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Registered nurses from D.C.'s Washington Hospital Center are still at odds with hospital management over wages and what they say is inadequate staffing for quality patient care.

Earlier this month, the hospital center's corporate manager, MedStar, imposed a plan to increases nurses' base pay, but cut shift pay for evening, night and weekend work. Some nurses say this will actually cut take-home pay, since shift work is key to quality nursing.

"It is about safe patient care, and you cannot give safe, adequate patient care without good nurses...in the right numbers," says Jean Keppler, who has been a registered nurse for 34 years.

MedStar spokesperson Jean Hitchcock says a new staffing matrix favored by the nurses' national labor union promises to improve patient care.

"We've already hired 119 nurses since July, and we're committed to hiring another 200, so it's not a matter of us not wanting to hire nurses. And actually, safe patient care and high quality care [have] always been our priority," Hitchcock says.

Both sides continue to negotiate a return to the bargaining table.

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