San Diego Business Journal

Nearly 700 nurses at the Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside unionized this month, the California Nurses Association announced recently.

The state's largest nurses union first petitioned to represent the group in September. By mid-October, more than half the nurses at the 397-bed public hospital had signed cards expressing their intent to join a bargaining unit.

CNA said it wants to start negotiating immediately with the hospital , the last in North County to unionize. Tri-City serves Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista and surrounding areas.

Roy Hong, lead organizer with Oakland-based CNA, said there are more than 30 points the nurses and hospital management will negotiate. Some nurses at the hospital did not sign cards saying they wished to join the union. Whether these nurses will be required to join will be determined by the group's final agreement with the hospital, Hong said.

Some issues that nurses have said they want to lobby the hospital administration for include higher pay, fewer hours and newer medical equipment.

Yet, turnover rate at the hospital is at the lower end of the national average. According to CNA, the national average ranges from 15 percent to 25 percent, and Tri-City stood at 15.6 percent in 2004, according to Mark Weinberg, Tri-City's interim vice president of human resources.

Alvarado Hospital Medical Center's nurses unionized last year. Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas' did so in 2003, and the union contract for nurses at Palomar Pomerado Health began about a year and a half ago after two years of negotiations.

At Palomar Pomerado Health, nurses won 30 percent salary increases in place of merit pay, a new pension plan, staffing gains and a ban on mandatory overtime.

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Uncle Sam Likes UC San Diego: UC San Diego ranks seventh among U.S. universities for gaining research and development funding from the federal government, according to a recent ranking by the National Science Foundation, a federal agency that grants money to schools for research.

UCSD spent $646.5 million in research and development money for fiscal 2003, according to the group, which is based in Arlington, Va.

The university said it has been in the top 10 for gaining federal research funds for more than a decade.

For 2004-2005, UCSD revealed that its total awards for research contracts and grants , federal and otherwise , were $728.4 million.

According to the Science Foundation's Web site, it is an "independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950" to promote science, secure national defense and advance health. About 20 percent of all federally funded research conducted at U.S. universities comes from the foundation, according to the agency.

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Local Researcher Gets Grant: The Leukemia Society has awarded Thomas Kipps, the deputy director of research at the Moores Cancer Center at UCSD, $6.25 million over five years to study cancer therapies.

The Specialized Center of Research grant is the largest type given by the society. There are 15 such grants being used for active research around the globe today, according to UCSD.

Kipps has said the research may be beneficial for other types of tumors, too.
The grant is given to researchers from different disciplines who collaborate. Kipps will be working with scientists from the university as well as the La Jolla-based Burnham Institute, with specialties in genetics, cell biology, virology and immunology.

Contact Katie Weeks with health care news at (858) 277-6359, or e-mail her at kweeks@sdbj.com.