FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 22, 2015
SEIU Healthcare PA and Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania look forward to partnering with new Administration to protect patients and caregivers
HARRISBURG, PA — Nurses and healthcare professionals welcome the new report by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale which revealed on Wednesday that, for years, the Department of Labor and Industry failed to properly reinforce Act 102, the landmark law in place to ban mandatory overtime for all healthcare workers in Pennsylvania and prohibit employer retaliation. As a result, patients and frontline caregivers were placed in harm’s way. Additionally, they commend Acting Secretary of Labor and Industry Manderino for her support of the audit and pledge to work with her to implement stronger enforcement of the law.
“Pennsylvania’s frontline nurses worked tirelessly to get Act 102 passed and signed into law in 2008 for the safety and benefit of our patients,” said Deborah Bonn, RN, director of the Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania. “For years we sounded the alarm that the Department of Labor and Industry was slow, weak, and negligent in its enforcement of the law, and now this report confirms our warnings.”
DePasquale’s audit found that since the law was passed in 2008, the Department of Labor and Industry was years late in issuing regulations to oversee the proper enforcement of the law and “failed to accurately record, investigate, and respond to all Act 102-related complaints it received during the period July 1, 2009, through August 31, 2014.” More disturbingly, eight percent of all complaints (99 of 1,246) received were summarily closed due to a lack of resources in place to investigate alleged violations of Act 102.
“My mother was recovering from a stroke and undergoing chemotherapy when I was mandated.” said Shelly Rohm, a Certified Nursing Assistant at Sherwood Oaks near Pittsburgh. “She was in need of 24-hour care and I did not have someone scheduled to look after her for those extra hours. My boss said I would be fired if I didn’t comply and said I should bring my mother into work with me. When the Department of Labor and Industry investigated, they believed my employer, who said I volunteered to bring my mother in, and the case was closed. That isn’t the way healthcare workers should be treated.”
Act 102, which bans mandatory overtime for all healthcare workers except in narrowly defined emergencies, was passed in 2008 with bipartisan support after years of research found that when nurses are forced to work long hours, the likelihood of a medical error is three times higher[i] and the safety of nurses and healthcare workers is often compromised.[ii] Additionally, shift length has been shown to correlate with nurse-reported quality and safety measures[iii] as well as increased patient mortality.[iv]
“Mandatory overtime puts patients at risk and is unfair to caregivers. Tired nurses who are forced to work overtime stand a greater likelihood of making a preventable medical error,” said Paula Stellabotte, registered nurse at UPMC Altoona and member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and the Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania. “Act 102 was passed with bipartisan support to protect patients and nurses, and exposing the previous Administration’s lax enforcement of this important patient safety measure is long overdue.”
Following DePasquale’s report findings and recommendations to strengthen the law’s enforcement, Acting Secretary Manderino said that the Department of Labor and Industry “must not just meet, but exceed the Auditor General’s recommendations.”
“Act 102 has made a major difference in the lives of nurses and patients in thousands of hospitals and healthcare facilities across Pennsylvania,” said Neal Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Auditor General DePasquale’s findings shine a light on the critical need to enforce this law as intended to protect patients and caregivers. Acting Secretary Manderino has done the right thing in embracing Auditor General DePasquale’s report and recommendations, and we look forward to working with her and her team to ensure that Act 102 is properly enforced so that no patient, nor the nurse or direct care worker that cares for her, is put at risk by forced overtime.”
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest growing union of health care workers, representing 25,000 nurses, technicians, nursing assistants, and support staff in hospitals, nursing homes and public institutions across the Commonwealth. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is committed to improving the lives of health care workers and ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Pennsylvanians.
The Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, uniting nurses across Pennsylvania in our commitment to provide the safest and highest quality of care for our patients and the public we serve. The Nurse Alliance was created as a forum for nurses to network and discuss ways to meet the challenges we face regarding our licenses and practice. Our mission is to unite nurses across the state to work for our common goals of universal health care, the highest standards of patient care and safety, respect for our profession, and dignity for our patients and their families.
__________________________________[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] Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Hospital Staff Nurses’ Shift Length Associated With Safety and Quality of Care. (2012) Authors: Stimpfel, Aiken. [iv] School of Nursing, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Nurses’ work schedule characteristics, nurse staffing, and patient mortality (2011). Authors: Trinkoff AM1, Johantgen M, Storr L, Gurses AP, Liang Y, Han K.