PETALUMA -- Registered nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital and two other St. Joseph Health--affiliated facilities today reached a tentative accord with hospital officials on a new collective bargaining agreement, the California Nurses Association said.

The Oakland-based nurses' union, an affiliate of National Nurses United, said the agreement "will bring significant improvements in patient care protections and health care security for nurses."

The two other hospitals are St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley and St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. The tentative agreement between nurse and hospital negotiators, reached late Wednesday night, still requires ratification by the RNs, who will vote on the proposals next week. 

The new contracts cover more than 1,100 RNs across the three hospitals and expire on May 31, 2016, the union said.

The new agreement includes improved language on RN-to-patient staffing ratios, according to the union. It also fended off "substantial increases" to nurses' health care premiums and removes a "punitive 'wellness' program" that the union said fails to provide promised savings while "penalizing employees" who may have chronic conditions.

At Petaluma Valley, the union said RNs managed to get hospital officials to ease off of several demands, including on-call pay reductions and reduced night shift differential pay, which the union said would have put the 80-bed hospital below the standard of other area hospitals and would have hurt retention and recruitment efforts of experienced RNs.

"Our new contract protects nurses, patients and our practice,” Anna Bruno, a surgical RN at Petaluma Valley Hospital, said in a statement. “We successfully fought takeaways in economics and health care, and strengthened our ability to fight for safer staffing for our patients. This contract is a win for our nurses and for our community."

The agreement does not affect nurses at St. Joseph Health--owned Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, whose nurse are part of a separate, Santa Rosa-based Staff Nurses’ Association. They, too, are in negotiations with St. Joseph Health officials over similar contract disputes and went on strike last month.

Nurses at St. Joseph Health's Napa hospital, Queen of the Valley, also recently voted to join CNA.