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SEIU Healthcare PA Nurses Help Deliver 20,000 Signatures for Safe Patient Limits

On December 18th, SEIU Healthcare PA nurses joined others from across the state to deliver 20,000 signatures calling on elected leaders to pass safe patient limits legislation in hospitals and update regulations for long-term care staffing. Nurses spoke out about the importance of safe patient limits and asked Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Senator Michele Brooks, and Senator Joe Scarnati to listen to the thousands of bedside nurses asking for help to give their patients the care they deserve.

The petition represents the largest show of nurse support for safe staffing legislation in Pennsylvania history.

“We’re hopeful that they will listen to the thousands of bedside nurses like myself speaking out, “said Debbie Vandover, a nurse from York.” As the Governor, Senate Health & Human Services Committee Chair, and Senate President they have a huge amount of power to either help move this forward or hold it up.”

Nurses meet with Governor Tom Wolf's staff to talk about why their patients need Safe Patient Limit laws.

Nurses meet with Governor Tom Wolf’s staff to talk about why their patients need Safe Patient Limit laws.

The petition delivery was the final visit in a series of petition deliveries this month to every member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee who doesn’t yet support Senate Bill 450. Nurses are also visiting Governor Wolf, who has come out in support of safe patient limits, to call on him to take bold action to move the cause forward.

“We have a patient care crisis,” said Cathy Dishman from Perry County. “Our patients face increasingly unsafe staffing. Every day we’re asked to care for more patients. As a result, our patients get worse care, more nurses get hurt, more experienced nurses leave the bedside, there’s less nurses to train new nurses, and turnout for new nurses increases. Every day we fail to address this crisis, more patients die, who could have been saved if we had safe patient limits.”

While this bill has gained historic levels of support and study after study shows it would save patients’ lives, half of the Senate Health Committee members do not yet support the bill, including Sen. Brooks, who chairs the committee. Sen. Brooks pledged to support the bill while running for re-election against a nurse advocating for it just last year. Sen. Scarnati, who is the Senate’s President Pro Tempore and an ex-officio member of all standing committees, has not yet expressed support for Senate Bill 450.

Meanwhile, for the first time since 1976, Governor Wolf’s administration is reviewing the long-term care regulations, including staffing signatures for safe patient limits to demonstrate the overwhelming support for the legislation. Pennsylvania nursing homes currently require only 2.7 hours of direct care per resident per 24 hours. The nurses say we need to raise that safe staffing standard to 4.1 hours, as experts and caregivers have recommended for many years.

Nurses were grateful for the support from Gov. Wolf, but disappointed by the response from Sen. Brooks’ and Sen. Scarnati.

“I’m really grateful to have a Governor standing with us on Senate Bill 450,” said Debbie from York. “We wouldn’t have a chance to make this a law without his support, and we strongly encouraged him to raise the safe staffing standard to 4.1 hours. It’s also really disappointing that Sen. Brooks and Sen. Scarnati didn’t meet with us, but we’ll continue to try to meet with them to advocate for the policies our patients and profession need.”   

About the policies

In hospitals: PA needs legislation to set safe patient limits in our hospitals, and nurses must be on the frontlines of determining those limits. Senate Bill 450 and House Bill 867 do exactly this.

In nursing homes: Pennsylvania nursing homes currently require only 2.7 hours of direct care per resident per 24 hours. We need to raise that to 4.1 hours, as experts and caregivers have recommended for many years. We’re calling for this to happen through an adjustment in the existing regulations, which haven’t been updated in decades.

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