Registered nurses from UPMC Altoona Hospital were joined by members of the community on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 for a candlelight vigil. Nurses are negotiating their first contract since UPMC acquired the hospital and are concerned about management’s proposals.
“We promised to be advocates for our patients and our community, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Paula Stellabotte, an RN at UPMC Altoona. “As frontline caregivers, we know management’s proposals will not best serve our patients and we will continue to push back and let them know that.”
Nurses proposed better staffing ratios, which is shown to improve patient outcomes, decrease the length of hospital stays, and increase patient satisfaction scores. But management rejected their proposal.
“It comes down to patient care and safety,” explains Kim Heverly, who has been an RN at the hospital for 22 years. “If we don’t have good ratios, nursing becomes just a series of tasks, and you may miss subtle changes in a patient’s condition that could be an early indicator of complications. You also lose those one-on-one moments of caring and compassion, which is so important in nursing.”
Management is also proposing a wage freeze and cuts to benefits, including longevity benefits that help keep good nurses here in our community.
“If you aren’t offering good jobs, you can’t recruit and retain a quality workforce,” continues Heverly. “UPMC is a $10 billion global health enterprise, and we expect them to make an investment in this community by offering jobs that make the very best caregivers want to come here and stay here.”
“We were told that the acquisition would be good for the community and good for employees,” says Stellabotte. “But we aren’t seeing that in their proposals.”
The nurses’ current contract expired at the end of December, but negotiations have been extended through January.