Hospital workers air grievances
Employees call out new owner for policy changes, labor proposals
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.
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.
Bernie Moser, a nurse who has worked at Pottstown Hospital for 35 years, talks about what needs to change with Tower Health last week.