On March 28th, registered nurses from First Hospital of Wyoming Valley, Wilkes-Barre General and Moses Taylor Hospital were joined by other healthcare workers and community leaders at a candlelight vigil to shine a light on staffing shortages and excessive staff turnover at Community Health Systems’ three area hospitals.
The nurses from those three hospitals are all operating under expired union contracts with nurse recruitment, retention, and staffing the key concerns in contract negotiations. The vigil follows on the heels of a nurse speak out and rally at Wilkes-Barre General on March 15.
“I became a nurse because I wanted to use my time and talents to care for others and make a difference in the lives of my patients,” said Catherine Cooney, Registered Nurse at Moses Taylor Hospital. “My first priority is my patients, and my patients deserve a nurse who is working within safe patient limits and is able to provide excellent care.”
Tennessee-based Community Health Systems purchased NEPA’s community hospitals over the past decade and has allowed union contracts at each hospital to expire. To date, the company has refused to agree to nurse-to-patient ratios or restrictions on the practice of pulling staff members from their units to unfamiliar areas of the hospital to cover staffing shortages. Nurses at Moses Taylor and First Hospital, as well as First Hospital technicians, have voted to authorize a strike if a tentative agreement on these issues is not reached during upcoming bargaining sessions.
“In order to improve care in our hospitals, CHS must invest in recruitment and retention, in training and education,” said Jaya McAllister, RN in the OR at Moses Taylor. “We are losing both new and seasoned nurses which leads to staffing concerns.”
Nurses and technologists at First Hospital and Moses Taylor Hospital are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare PA. Nurses at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital are represented by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), an affiliate of Nurses United.