BLAIR COUNTY, PA — On February 28th, registered nurses with UPMC Altoona voted by a 97% majority to ratify a new 3-year contract with UPMC.
“From the beginning we have made it clear this is about our patients and protecting high quality care,” said Paula Stellabotte, a registered nurse in the ICU. “We are really proud to have advocated so long and so hard for this community and now we have a contract that reflects those values.”
A major sticking point in negotiations was staffing. The new contract maintains staffing language to ensure nurses are not assigned too many patients. Good staffing leads to better patient outcomes, fewer readmissions, and higher patient satisfaction.
“As a nurse, I want to make sure I have enough time to give each one of my patients my full attention and am on top of any changes in their condition,” said Jaime Weigand, an RN from the Emergency Room. “My patients want to know that if they need me, I can be there quickly because I won’t have too many other patients to be caring for at the same time. This contract will ensure those staffing guidelines are followed.”
Nurses were also able to reach fair compromises on healthcare, wages, and retirement that maintain quality jobs at the hospital, which help recruit and retain the best nurses.
Contract negotiations began in October, but on February 11th nurses held a one-day unfair labor practice strike after UPMC walked away from the table. When returning for work the next morning, hundreds of nurses were told they had been “temporarily replaced” and were left out in the cold. All of the nurses were called back over the next several days.
“We were willing to do whatever it took to stand up for our patients and our community,” said Stellabotte. “After the strike, we came back to the table and were able to negotiate a strong contract in just a few sessions. Nurses will always stand together for our patients — we are here to take care of this community and will always be their advocates.”
800 registered nurses at the hospital are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.