Landmark law prohibiting forced overtime of healthcare workers requires aggressive and timely enforcement by the Department of Labor and Industry
Harrisburg, PA – On Thursday, September 18, 2014, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced he will investigate the Corbett’s Administration’s record of compliance with Act 102, a landmark law passed in 2008 that bans mandatory overtime for all healthcare workers in Pennsylvania and prohibits employer retaliation.
“Nurses and healthcare workers of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania worked hard to get Act 102 passed because they know better than anyone that forcing caregivers to work double shifts is dangerous for nurses and patients alike,” said Neal Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
“In thousands of hospitals and healthcare facilities across Pennsylvania, this law has made a major difference in improving patient safety and retaining nurses and healthcare workers at the bedside,” continued Bisno. “But to ensure its effectiveness, we need proper enforcement by the Department of Labor and Industry and a Governor that will take this responsibility seriously. We commend Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s efforts to shine a light on this important health and safety issue.”
Nurses and healthcare workers of SEIU Healthcare PA have found Governor Corbett’s Department of Labor and Industry lax and untimely in its response to reported cases of mandatory overtime. “Governor Corbett’s Labor Department has been slow in following up on complaints and has failed to aggressively penalize unscrupulous employers when they violate the law, putting the safety of patients and caregivers at risk,” said Bisno.
Act 102, which bans mandatory overtime for all healthcare workers except in narrowly defined emergencies, was passed with bipartisan support after years of research that found when nurses are forced to work long hours, the likelihood of a medical errors is three times higher[i] and the safety of nurses and healthcare workers is often compromised.[ii] In one study, 61% of respondents said they had observed increases in overtime or double shifts during the past year, and more than 52% said it was either mandatory or “voluntary but felt like it is required.”[iii]
“I’ve been a nurse for 25 years and love what I do. But, when we are forced to work overtime, it adds unnecessary stress, frustration and fatigue that can impair your ability to function at your best. You can’t think straight when you’ve been working 16 hours,” said Terri Menichelli, an OB nurse from Wilkes Barre.
“Mandatory overtime should not be used as a consistent staffing solution. Act 102 was designed to prevent that practice. Now need our Governor to do his part and make sure the law is properly carried out.”
[i] Health Affairs: The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere, Vol. 23, No. 4, The Working Hours of Hospital Staff Nurses and Patient Safety, (2004). Authors: Rogers, Hwang, Scott, Aikens & Dinges.
[ii] [ii] New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 352, No. 2, (2005), Extended Work Shifts and the Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes Among Interns. Authors: Barger, Cade, Ayas, Cronin, Rosner & Speizer.
[iii] New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 346, No. 22, Nursing in the Crossfire, (2002). Author: Steinbrook.