Harrisburg, PA – As the nation honors Nurses Week, dozens of nurses across the state converged in Harrisburg to urge legislators to adopt the PA Nurses’ Prescription for Quality Care, which calls for expanded funding to improve staffing levels and decrease workplace violence in hospitals and nursing homes across Pennsylvania. They were joined by Representatives DiGirolamo (Bucks County) and Representative Frankel (Allegheny County).
Not only would Medicaid expansion provide 700,000 Pennsylvanians access to healthcare coverage, it would also make up for reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and disproportionate share payments as negotiated in the Affordable Care Act that compensate hospitals for charity care. (PA provides about $500 million in charity care in a year.) By diverting funding to cover the uninsured, hospitals have less resources to invest in staff and equipment to promote better outcomes for patients and safer workplaces for patients and staff alike.
“As nurses, we see every day the impact of insured patients on our hospitals and communities – the cost of caring for the uninsured is unsustainable for taxpayers, state governments and hospitals,” said Michelle Boyle, Registered Nurse from Allegheny General Hospital, “Accepting dedicated healthcare funding is just commonsense and will allow us to reinvest in our patients with safe patient to staff ratios by decreasing staff turnover, infection rates, re- admissions and non-emergent ER visits, all of which saves money.”
Short staffing and workplace violence are chronic issues faced by healthcare workers across Pennsylvania. Nurses regularly cite short staffing as their number one challenge and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that nearly half of all non-fatal injuries from occupational assaults and violent acts occur in the healthcare sector. While the fatal incidents shooting at UPMC Western Psychatric Institute and Clinic last year claim headlines, nearly 2,000 non-fatal incidences of workplace violence occur. Having additional resources in invest in security personnel, training and technology will go a long way in keeping workers, patients and visitors safer in healthcare facilities.
“In Altoona where my hospital is located, we have experienced a worsening economy, increasing unemployment and an influx of drugs from other urban areas. This has increased the level of workplace violence and safety concerns for healthcare workers in my facility and community,” said Registered Nurse, Paula Stellabotte, Altoona Regional Health System. “Despite our repeated requests to address safety concerns, our hospital system has failed to act. That’s why we need our elected officials in Harrisburg to stand up for healthcare workers and pass legislation that calls for each hospital to have a workplace violence committee, a real plan, and publically available data on these incidents.
That’s why dozens of nurses gathered at the capitol for a press conference on Wednesday, May 8 to urge our Governor and legislature to expand Medicaid, pass HB 923 (Representative Mundy, Luzerne County) and SB637 (Senator Senator Daylin Leach from Delaware and Montgomery County), legislation that would provide for safe RN-to-Patient ratios adjusted for acuity in PA hospitals and legislation to reduce workplace violence in healthcare facilities across Pennsylvania.
To ensure patients and healthcare workers receive the quality of care and level of safety they deserve, Governor Corbett and the legislature needs to adopt the PA Nurses’ Prescription for Quality Care and put the needs of workers and patients over politics today.