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Department of Health Nurses are Headed Back to Work!

All 26 Department of Health Nurses Offered Reinstatement After November Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling

Harrisburg – In the latest positive step toward rebuilding our state’s public health infrastructure, the Pennsylvania Department of Health last week officially offered reinstatement to all 26 nurses whose positions had been eliminated under the Corbett Administration following the November Supreme Court’s ruling on a lawsuit SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and state legislators filed to protect public health and safety.  This development is on the heels of the re-opening of the Clinton County Health Center last month.

“I am absolutely delighted to be returning to my position of providing public health services at the Northeast District Office after months of uncertainty,” said Joanne Namey, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and a Tobacco Nurse Consultant who will be returning to work at the Northeast District Office.  “If the recent measles and Ebola episodes have taught us anything, it’s that a properly funded and fully functioning Department of Health is critical to keeping our communities safe and healthy.”

Last week’s announcement impacts 26 Department of Health nurse consultants who staff the six district offices around Pennsylvania. These nurses have a specialized expertise in areas such as tuberculosis, immunizations, communicable diseases, maternal/child health, and school health, and provide coordination, consultation and administrative support to the state health centers located within their respective districts.

The Corbett Administration’s ill-conceived “modernization” plan sought to eliminate 26 – or nearly half – of the nurse consultant positions and close 26 state health centers.  In November, following a lawsuit filed by SEIU Healthcare PA and state legislators to block Corbett’s plan, the PA Supreme Court ruled that the DOH must cease its plans to further reduce the Department of Health capacity and “restore the level of public health services to that which existed on July 1, 1995,” which includes re-opening the 16 health centers that were already shuttered and reinstating the nurse consultants at the District Offices. Since January, the Wolf Administration has moved swiftly to implement the ruling and restore public health services.

“We are heartened by the pace the new administration is setting to re-open state health centers and restore public health nurses to the communities that need them,” said Kevin Hefty, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania Vice President. “For too long, Pennsylvania’s public health infrastructure has been underfunded and we look forward to working with the Acting Secretary of Health Karen Murphy and the Wolf Administration to build a strong public health system across the Commonwealth.”

“This is just the first step,” Namey continued, “We have programs to get going again and more health centers to reopen. By retooling and rebuilding, we can create a renaissance for Pennsylvania’s public health system.”

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2015 / Contact: Amelia Abromaitis, 215.219.4248 / Amelia.Abromaitis@seiuhcpa.org

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