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Contract negotiations between Medina Memorial Hospital and its registered nurses appear all but settled, and the nurses union has rescinded its threat to strike Thursday.

Edwin J. Robisch, staff and program coordinator for the United Professional Nurses Association, and James N. Schmit, a Buffalo attorney representing the hospital, both said Sunday that the issues have been settled verbally but the agreement still needs to be authorized by the leaders of the two sides and then put into writing.

The amount of money the hospital spends on nurses' salaries is to rise about 12 percent, or more than $250,000, over the life of a contract retroactive to May 15 and expiring Dec. 31, 2003.

Schmit said in a telephone interview that it's hard to calculate an average raise because the 74 nurses have 41 different salaries. They are to be shoehorned into a salary schedule for the first time.

"Some nurses may get 16 percent (raises)," Robisch said at a union rally Sunday in Crossroads Restaurant. "Some may get 9 percent. Some may get 7 percent."

And some are already earning more than the top step of the new salary scale; they will receive bonuses so they don't lose income.

But the union isn't letting its guard down. Donald Hill, a union labor-management specialist, told the rally of about 60 nurses and supporters that the union can reissue a strike notice if events warrant, but he added, "The chances of us not getting an agreement from the present situation are slim."

Robisch said he intends to set up a meeting with Schmit today and hopes the work on what is now a 57-page tentative contract can be finished by the end of this week.

James E. Sinner, hospital president and chief executive officer, said Sunday evening that he expects the hospital board of trustees will have a proposal to vote on at its Feb. 26 meeting, with union ratification occurring before then.

The nurses unionized in December 1999; this will be their first contract.

Union President Jane Reinard told her colleagues, who are now making between $14.50 and $21 per hour, that they will see increases in extra pay for being in charge of units and for certification in particular nursing specialties. Also, a weekend differential -- extra pay for working on weekends -- will begin in 2002.

Union Vice President Cindy Cornelius said full-time nurses will receive a $250 "ratification bonus" when the contract is approved, followed by a 2.5 percent retroactive raise for the period from May 15 to Dec. 31, 2000.

"It's not great. It's not the best," Robisch said. "I don't want to sugarcoat it, but it's not bad for a first contract."

Robisch said at the rally that Medina Memorial is in the black, but Sinner denied it.

Sinner said that based on unaudited figures, the hospital lost $44,000 on operations in 2000 out of about $30 million in gross revenue. He said that once investments are taken into account, the red ink will grow.

Medina Memorial has 71 acute-care and 30 long-term care beds. It also owns the 160-bed Orchard Manor Nursing Home and outpatient renal dialysis units in Medina and Batavia. The hospital has about 400 employees and a medical staff of about 30 physicians.

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