Nurses picket Pottstown Hospi­tal to protest staffing de­ci­sion

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » To a cho­rus of honk­ing car horns, de­fi­ant dance mu­sic and call-and-response chants, more than 50 nurses and other medical per­son­nel mounted a picket line in front of Pottstown Hospi­tal May 8.

The group, rep­re­sented by the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and As­so­ci­ated Per­son­nel, had a sim­ple-but-multi-level mes­sage.

They de­manded that: — Hospi­tal owner Tower Health re­store the pe­di­atric unit closed by Com­mu­nity Health Sys­tems, the hospi­tal’s pre­vi­ous own­ers;

— Tower Health set­tle on a con­tract with the nurses, who have worked 20 months with­out one and who want a say in staffing de­ci­sions, which they say are mak­ing pa­tients un­safe;

— Use some of the $25 mil­lion profit the hospi­tal made in each 2016 and 2017 to re­store the nearly $1 mil­lion in taxes lost by the Pottstown School District when the hospi­tal was taken off the tax rolls.

The past eight months of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the new em­ployer have been neg­a­tively im­pacted by nu­mer­ous vi­o­la­tions of the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions act com­mit­ted by Tower, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the union.

Nurse Re­becca Mal­faro said she knows a nurse “with a spot­less record” who has been sus­pended and may be fired for miss­ing one shift “due to a sched­ul­ing er­ror.”

“We’re out here to let Tower Health know that Pottstown nurses stand up for their pa­tients,” said nurse Lori Domin.

“We want Pottstown Hospi­tal to know we will not back down when it comes to safe staffing,”she said, not­ing she was “forced into a sit­u­a­tion where I had to care for nine pa­tients in a sin­gle shift. That is un­safe.”

Domin said a “staffing ra­tio” needs to be in­cluded in the con­tract, but hospi­tal ne­go­tia­tors said nurses would “never have a say in staffing.”

“We’re all here so Tower can hear we want them to pro­vide safe staffing for us and for the com­mu­nity,” said Robin Niarhos, who has been a nurse in Pottstown for 12 years.

Mary Adam­son, a nurse for 25 years at Tem­ple Univer­sity Hospi­tal who marched in sol­i­dar­ity with her Pottstown peers — along with mem­bers of sev­eral other unions — asked “Why is man­age­ment so afraid to al­low nurses to be part of staffing de­ci­sions? You can’t pay your nurses $10 per hour less than those at a hospi­tal 30 miles away. You have to stand up to the Go­liath in the ivory tower.”

Patty Eakin, statewide pres­i­dent for the union, noted that the salary of a sin­gle em­ployee of the “non­profit” — CEO Clint Matthews — could solve the $1.7 mil­lion bud­get gap faced by the Pottstown School District this year, due in large part to the $1 mil­lion in tax rev­enue lost when the hospi­tal was taken off the tax rolls.

“It is un­ac­cept­able that a com­pany pay­ing its CEO Clint Matthews $2.5 mil­lion

is re­fus­ing to pay its fair share,” said Eakin.

She noted that the Penn­syl­va­nia Cost Con­tain­ment Coun­cil, a non-profit state agency, cal­cu­lated that Pottstown Hospi­tal “posted a $25 mil­lion profit for the sec­ond year in a row when it was owned by Com­mu­nity Health Sys­tems. Clearly Tower Health has a prof­itable in­sti­tu­tion in Pottstown Hospi­tal and should in­vest in this com­mu­nity and in pa­tient care,” Eakin said.

De­bra Ben­nis, direc­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­nity re­la­tions for the hospi­tal,

is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment in response to the la­bor ac­tion by the nurses:

“The man­age­ment of Pottstown Hospi­tal and Tower Health re­spects the right of our em­ploy­ees to join unions and to en­gage in the type of ac­tiv­ity tak­ing place to­day at Pottstown Hospi­tal. The in­for­ma­tional pick­et­ing is not im­pact­ing pa­tient care in any way. All hos­pi­tals de­part­ments and nurs­ing units are staffed as usual, and all our ser­vices at Pottstown Hospi­tal and the physi­cian of­fices on the Pottstown cam­pus are op­er­at­ing nor­mally. The nurses

who en­gaged in the pick­et­ing did so on their own time. We are ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith with PAS­NAP, and are com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing work poli­cies, pro­ce­dures, and prac­tices that ap­ply eq­ui­tably to all our em­ploy­ees and that give them the tools needed to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble care.”

The Nurses at Pottstown Hospi­tal are mem­bers of PAS­NAP, the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, which rep­re­sents more than 8,000 bed­side nurses and health­care pro­fes­sion­als through­out the state.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Af­ter ral­ly­ing along Ar­mand Ham­mer Boule­vard, union nurses and other pro­fes­sion­als marched up to the front door of Pottstown Hospi­tal to protest the clos­ing of the pe­di­atric unit, un­safe staffing lev­els, the $1 mil­lion tax loss to the school district and work­ing with­out a con­tract for 20 months.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pottstown Hospi­tal Nurses and oth­ers, mem­bers of the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, con­duct an in­for­ma­tional picket along High Street af­ter work­ing with­out a con­tract for 20 months since Tower Health pur­chased the hospi­tal.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Patty Eakin, RN and statewide Pres­i­dent of Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and As­so­ci­ated Pro­fes­sions, told the pick­ets that “it is un­ac­cept­able that a com­pany pay­ing its CEO Clint Matthews $2.5 mil­lion is re­fus­ing to pay its fair share.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pick­eters in front Pottstown Hospi­tal chanted “1, 2, 3, 4, safe staffing on the floor, 5, 6, 7, 8, Tower must ne­go­ti­ate.”

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Nurse Robin Niarhos, who has worked at Pottstown Hospi­tal for 12 years, said staffing lev­els at the hospi­tal, which made a $25 mil­lion profit last year, are cre­at­ing un­safe con­di­tions for pa­tients.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Say­ing “you are free to cover the picket,” Pottstown Hospi­tal se­cu­rity of­fi­cers re­fused to let re­porters cov­er­ing the in­for­ma­tional picket by nurses to park in the hospi­tal park­ing lot.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Nurses and other medical pro­fes­sion­als, who have been work­ing with­out a con­tract for 20 months, con­ducted an in­for­ma­tional picket in front of Pottstown Hospi­tal and had no short­age of signs to choose from.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.