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Hospital Workers Welcome Reading Health

Media Release for Thursday, June 1, 2017

Healthcare workers look forward to partnership with new owners to improve patient care

READING, PA  — Hospital workers at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Jennersville Hospital and Chestnut Hill Hospital who are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania look forward to building a collaborative relationship with Reading Health System, which will be buying their hospitals and two others in Eastern Pennsylvania.

This growing trend – large hospital systems buying small community facilities – is the new normal for the healthcare industry.

“It can be a huge concern for patients because suddenly decisions are being made miles away by executives who don’t know the area or the people here,” said Jake Reese, an RN at Regional Hospital of Scranton, which went through ownership change in 2014. “That’s why it’s vital that nurses and other healthcare workers have a strong voice. We are part of this community, we know our patients, we know what they need and we will keep advocating for them.”

That advocacy happens through practices like regular labor-management meetings to create a better workplace, help brainstorm and implement improvements and handle concerns, and being a part of the conversation as hospitals change owners.

“A lot of people think a union contract is just about wages, but that’s not the case,” said Lori Willis, who has been a Radiologic Technologist at Jennersville Hospital for seven years. “For healthcare, a contract also needs to establish guidelines and protocols, and even staffing, to make sure our patients get what they need.”

While wages are only a part of the equation, it does also play a vital role in overall community health. Since jobs in healthcare are often the best jobs in a community, it’s important to hold the industry accountable to providing good wages and benefits to help the economy.

“Good jobs also comes back to better care,” said Vanessa Scott, who has worked as a phlebotomist for 20 years at Chestnut Hill Hospital. “If you’ve got a group of employees who are paid fairly and feel valued, they’re going to stick around, and you’re going to attract even better workers. So you end up with a hospital staffed by a highly-experienced and skilled workforce. That’s the kind of hospital patients want to go to.”

For most workers, this recent move by Reading Health System isn’t the first ownership change they’ve seen. More and more, healthcare workers are choosing to organize a union because they know it’s the best way to advocate and have a seat at the table when change comes.

“This may be an industry, but it can’t be treated like one. Lives are at stake, and patients need to come first,” said Roxanne Dunsmore, a CT Technologist at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center for the past 18 years. “It doesn’t matter whose name is on the door, we look forward to sitting down with management and figuring out how we can make our hospital a success – that means making sure patients are always a top priority amid change.

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SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest growing union of nurses and health care workers, uniting nearly 45,000 nurses, professional and technical employees, direct care workers, and service employees in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home and community based services, and State facilities across the Commonwealth.  SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members are committed to improving the lives of health care workers` and ensuring quality care and healthy communities and for all Pennsylvanians.

Contact Karen Gownley, SEIU Healthcare PA at  717-805-6070 or karen.gownley@seiuhcpa.org.

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