Green Mountain Care Board to stay out of UVM nurses' fight

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Despite multiple talks, the UVM Medical Center and nurses union still haven't agreed on a new contract. The two sides will be back at the negotiating table Wednesday at 4 p.m.

The Green Mountain Care Board oversees all Vermont hospitals to make sure they comply with state standards, but when it comes to strike negotiations they're staying out of the way.

"We don't really have a response other than that we are hopeful that both sides can come to a satisfactory conclusion of the negotiation," said Kevin Mullin, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board.

But Mullin says a good balance needs to be found during the talks at UVM. "Nurses have to be paid a salary that attracts and retains good quality nurses, but on the same token, we don't want to drive up the cost of health care," he said.

Union reps say there's a problem retaining nurses at UVM. Mullin says there is a shortage of health care professionals across the state. He says one problem is that the people currently working in health care are aging. Another is finding work for people's spouses.

Mullin says fixing the problem starts with education. He says people in higher education should be talking about the opportunities in health care. With more conversations, Mullin says he hopes the state will be able to create more qualified people who will stay and work in Vermont. "We've seen a number of hospitals in particular that have been successful," he said. "For example, paying for someone to go back to school so they get their RN."

Mullin says he wants to avoid seeing hospitals spend extra money on traveling nurses.

There will be a meeting at Castleton University on August 2 to further discuss these issues and get community feedback.