Hospi­tal work­ers air griev­ances

Em­ploy­ees call out new owner for pol­icy changes, la­bor pro­pos­als

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­ian Den­nis mden­nis@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

A sea of signs ac­com­pa­nied by car horns and chants could be seen and heard Aug. 22 as nurses and other health care pro­fes­sion­als ral­lied out­side Pottstown Hospi­tal.

Dozens of Pottstown Hospi­tal work­ers rep­re­sented by the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and As­so­ci­ated Per­son­nel (PASNAP) and the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union (SEIU) held a press con­fer­ence out­side the hospi­tal at High Street and Armand Ham­mer Boule­vard to call out what they say is un­fair la­bor pro­pos­als and pol­icy changes by new owner Tower Health.

Berks County-based Tower Health, which owns Read­ing Hospi­tal, com­pleted the $418 mil­lion pur­chase of five re­gional hos­pi­tals, in­clud­ing Pottstown Hospi­tal, in Septem­ber 2017.

“I’ve been a nurse here at Pottstown Hospi­tal for 35 years. We have been work­ing on a con­tract for two years and they need to come up with a plan to re­cruit staff and to re­tain staff,” said Bernie Moser, a nurse who came out on Aug. 22 to make her voice heard. “It’s a re­volv­ing door. They hire, they leave. The other thing is they’ve come in and want to change our ben­e­fits. We lose hol­i­days. Easter sud­denly isn’t a hol­i­day any­more. We want to re­tain what we al­ready have. We don’t want to lose the ben­e­fits that we do have.”

Dur­ing the news con­fer­ence, nurses and other health­care work­ers had the chance to talk pub­licly about their con­cerns.

“I lived in Pottstown my whole life. This is my com­mu­nity. I went to Pottstown pub­lic schools and now my daugh­ter goes too. Our schools al­ways run on tight bud­gets but when Tower came to town it be­came even worse. Even though the com­pany is very prof­itable, they don’t pay their fair share in taxes,” said Ashan­tay Lacey, 32, of Pottstown, a certi-

fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant at the hospi­tal.

Lacey was re­fer­ring to the hospi­tal’s non-profit sta­tus, which the union says is tak­ing more than $1 mil­lion away from lo­cal schools and bor­ough ser­vices.

“When my daugh­ter turned one she was di­ag­nosed with epilepsy. This was a night­mare for us but I worked hard to get her the care she needs. Un­der Tower’s plan the out of pocket cost could be to­tally un­af­ford­able for me. We don’t event know if the spe­cial­ist she sees at CHOP who we know and trust will be cov­ered at all un­der their plan,” Lacey added.

In ad­di­tion to com­ments from health­care work­ers, Linda Fields, can­di­date for state se­nate also showed up to show her sup­port, lead­ing

work­ers in the chant, “Tower has no power with­out the peo­ple.”

The health­care work­ers in­clude more than 250 cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tants, trans­porters, unit sec­re­taries, ser­vice work­ers, tech­ni­cians, CNAs and more who are mem­bers of SEIU Health­care Penn­syl­va­nia, as well as 320 nurses rep­re­sented by the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als (PASNAP), ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion from the union.

Both groups have been in con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions for two years and work­ers say “there is no end in sight.”

In re­sponse to Aug. 22’s press con­fer­ence, Tower Health spokesper­son Ann Valuch made the fol­low­ing state­ment in an email to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia:

“Tower Health is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing em­ployee ben­e­fits that are com­pet­i­tive in our mar­ket and con­sis­tent across our six-hospi­tal

sys­tem. We have pro­posed im­prove­ments over the le­gacy ben­e­fits still in place at Chest­nut Hill Hospi­tal, Pottstown Hospi­tal, and the other hos­pi­tals ac­quired from Com­mu­nity Health Sys­tems. For the em­ploy­ees at these hos­pi­tals, our pro­posed med­i­cal ben­e­fit plan will of­fer more choice, af­ford­abil­ity, and bet­ter ac­cess to doc­tors and ser­vices, in­clud­ing con­ve­nient ac­cess to a net­work of Tier 1 physi­cians. Our pro­posed earned time off ben­e­fit equals or ex­ceeds what em­ploy­ees have in their cur­rent plan. We will con­tinue to ed­u­cate the union on our pro­posed ben­e­fits pack­age as ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue.”

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.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS – DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Car horns honked as they drove past nurses stand­ing with signs on the cor­ner of High Street and Armand Ham­mer Boule­vard just out­side Pottstown Hospi­tal Aug. 22.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS – DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Bernie Moser, a nurse who has worked at Pottstown Hospi­tal for 35 years, talks about what needs to change with Tower Health last week.

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