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Thousands Of Nurses At Philadelphia Area Hospitals ‘Poised To Strike’ Over Safe Staffing Ratios

Published Monday, November 16, 2020 10:00 am
by Nina Feldman/WHHY
Thousands Of Nurses At Philadelphia Area Hospitals ‘Poised To Strike’ Over Safe Staffing Ratios

(PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA) - More than 2,500 Nurses at four Philadelphia area hospitals are preparing to go on Strike in the coming days.

Represented by the Pennsylvania Association for Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the Nurses have found themselves deadlocked with health system operators over one central issue: Safe staffing on the hospital floor.

It’s a concern Nurses nationwide have fought for with increasing success in recent years, and which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

The 800 Nurses at St. Mary Medical Center in Bucks County and the 260-plus at Mercy Fitzgerald in Delaware County have already voted to authorize a Strike and each has given a 10-day notice to their employer, Michigan-based Trinity Health.

In Philadelphia, Nurses at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Einstein Medical Center have voted to authorize a Strike - but had yet to give their notice to management.

“This is ‘not something that we want to do,’” said Maria Plano, an ICU Nurse who’s worked at St. Christopher’s for 16 years. “This ‘is not something we take lightly.’”

Safe Staffing Ratios, or “Grids,” as they’re known within the Nursing Profession, mandate the maximum number of patients that one nurse should care for at a given time.

The ratios ebb and flow depends on how acutely ill the patients are, which unit they’re in, what season it is, and a number of other variables, but the standard in places like California, which passed legislation mandating ratios, is about one Nurse to every four patients.

While Staffing Grids exist at some of the hospitals, Nurses say they aren’t always honored.

So, they are pushing for the ratios to be included in their contracts, making them enforceable.

Staffing issues predated the Coronavirus Pandemic, but pressures created by the crisis have exacerbated the issue.

The 800 Nurses at St. Mary in Bucks County formed a Union in 2019 specifically to address staffing ratios there and are now negotiating their first contract with Trinity Health.

When the Coronavirus hit, Nurses weren’t laid off, said Lynn McCarthy, a Labor and Delivery Nurse, but administrative staff were.

That led to more secretarial duties for Nurses, eating into their time for patient care.

“We’re ‘not there to answer the phones all day, we’re not there to schedule cases in our schedule book,’” McCarthy said. “It ‘really does impede what we’re there to do, and that’s to be at the bedside.’”

Nurses at Mercy Fitz are also negotiating their first contract since Trinity took over the hospital in 2018.

Registered Nurse Annemarie Dellago said tensions in the hospital are running high - her colleagues have found their membership fliers ripped up in the break room.

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