Harrisburg PA – Beginning Thursday, May 23, 2013, nine community health nurses received furlough notices from the Corbett Administration despite objections from state legislators and public health advocates, as well as a pending lawsuit.
Of the 26 community health nurse positions originally slated for elimination back in February, 22 positions were ultimately eradicated. Of these, nine community nurses will be laid off on June 7, with the remaining positions moved into existing vacancies. Additionally, Carbon County’s state health center has been closed with other state health centers poised to follow.
In April, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against the Corbett Administration’s plan on the grounds that it violates both Pennsylvania law as well as its Constitution. But on April 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court denied a preliminary injunction to prevent the closure of the state health centers, failing to offer its opinion providing grounds for its decision. Since then, SEIU Healthcare PA, along with the legislators, have appealed this ruling to the State Supreme Court. The lawsuit itself will proceed.
Despite widespread public opposition to the move and the legal uncertainty, the Administration moved forward and eliminated 22 positions, threatening an already fragile public health system in Pennsylvania that already ranks near the bottom in the amount of public health spending per capita.
“This move is a violation of the Commonwealth’s commitment to protecting the public health of its residents and weakens an already under-staffed public health infrastructure. Public officials, public health professionals, and the community have all voiced strong opposition to this move,” said Joe Donahue, School Nurse Consultant from the Southwest District. “It’s now up to the legislature and the courts to stand up for public health.”
Should SEIU Healthcare PA win the lawsuit, the furlough decisions could be reversed. Additionally, the legislature can reverse the Corbett Administration’s plans during budget negotiations by reinstating funding for both the community nurse positions as well as the state health centers.