LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Hundreds of striking nurses from eastern Kentucky and West Virginia voted Saturday night to ratify a new contract with the region's largest health care provider.
The approval ended a nearly three-months strike that forced some layoffs and brought financial hardship to Appalachian Regional Healthcare, which operates nine hospitals in the two states.
More than 600 of the hospital system's 750 registered nurses walked off the job on Oct. 1 and about 500 remained on strike before an agreement was reached on Thursday.
"I think it's been 83 days. It's been a long time, much longer than we ever anticipated," said Pat Tanner, the lead negotiator for the nurses. "But it's time to go back, I hope we can work together to rebuild the organization."
The company, based in Lexington, Ky., has agreed to return 350 of the striking nurses to work by Jan. 31, and the rest were to return by the end of March. The agreement said the hospital system would make its "best effort" to return all of the striking nurses to their pre-strike unit and shifts, and guaranteed that at least 80 percent would go back to their pre-strike units.
The new contract runs through 2011.