Hundreds of nurses are expected to picket outside Washington Hospital Center tonight amid a contract dispute with the center’s management.

 Stephen Frum, a nurse at the hospital and chief shop steward for Nurses United, an organization representing the 1,600 nurses at the hospital, tells City Desk the hospital’s terms fail to remedy the facility’s nurse shortage and would reduce the existing nurses’ take home pay.

Currently, nurses are spread thin, caring for six to seven patients at a time, when nurses should be caring for only four to five, Frum says. In order to fill the shortage, the hospital must add 200 to 250 more nurses. The pay reduction, hitting nurses with more than 15 years experience the hardest, could cause the hospital to lose good nurses, making an already bad situation worse, he adds.

Hospital spokesperson So Young Pak writes in a press release, “our proposals demonstrate our commitment to improve clinical staffing levels…[and] to reduce overtime.” Nurse wages will remain at the top of the market, but there’s a focus on areas “in which our pay structure differs significantly from what is standard at other hospitals in the region,” she adds.

Negotiations will continue over the next few weeks. In the past, negotiations haven’t usually taken this long, Frum says.

“This [picket] is not going to affect anything. They have the legal right to be part of this activity…our contract negotiations will go on,” Pak says.

The current contract will expire May 25.