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Nurses Hold Statewide Vigil for Safe Patient Limits

NA Safe Staffing Banner 2018

Hundreds of nurses across the state gathered to shine a light on the care crisis and pledge to vote safe staffing on November 6th.

Dozens of nurses across Pennsylvania held candlelight vigils Wednesday evening  as a call for action to end chronic short staffing in our state’s hospitals and nursing homes by electing candidates on November 6th who support safe patient limit laws.

“This is a human being issue. This isn’t about republicans or democrats, it’s about humans,” said Paula Stellabotte, an ICU RN from Altoona.  “All of us are going to need the care of a nurse at some point in our life and we want to be able to be there for you.”

As healthcare becomes increasingly corporate, care decisions in hospitals and nursing homes are being made by executives rather than those on the frontline of care. Nurses must do more with less as executives place the bottom line ahead of patient care.

“Nurses have been working to try and fix the care crisis but management doesn’t always listen,” said Kim Heverly, RN. “Until there are laws in place that set a safe limit, hospitals aren’t going to take notice and they aren’t going to change anything.”

In a study of 1,000 bedside nurses last year, 94% of nurses say their facility does not have enough nursing staff and 95% have been unable to provide best care as a result. Research shows implementing safe patient limits in Pennsylvania could reduce surgical patient deaths in hospitals by 10%.

For the past year, nurses across Pennsylvania have met with candidates and legislators to educate them about the crisis and urge them to commit to supporting safe patient limit laws. (PA House Bill 1500 and PA Senate Bill 214). To date, there are 51 cosponsors of the bills in the house and 18 cosponsors in the senate, representing both sides of the aisle.

“If I have 11 patients in a 12-hour shift that means I see each patient for just 1 hour a day – and that patient may only get 2 hours of nurse time in a 24-hour period. That isn’t enough,” said Jenna Miller, RN. “We need our elected officials to stand with nurses and that means passing these laws. If you aren’t with nurses on this issue then we will vote you out.”

The website www.careplanforpa.org/champions allows voters to easily identify candidates in their area who stand with nurses and support safe patient limit laws. Earlier this year, Governor Wolf became the first governor in Pennsylvania history to publicly support safe staffing laws. The Governor also appointed a bedside nurse to the Patient Safety Authority Board, which helps shape hospital care and standards.

Nurses say voters need to know it’s time for change.

“Somedays it feels like we are just barely holding on; our whole teams are stretched,” continued Heverly. “We are in a crisis and it is time to end. This election, we have the opportunity to elect folks who will support safe patient limits and who really stand with nurses.”

Vigils were held Wednesday night in Altoona, State College, and Luzerne.

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Allegheny Valley Hospital caregivers negotiate landmark contract

Registered nurses, nurses aides, dietary, housekeeping and other service workers at Allegheny Valley Hospital (AVH) ratified a new three-year union contract with the hospital that focuses on the recruitment and retention of new staff by making significant improvements in pay, as well as staffing across the hospital.

The Union and Hospital were committed to recognizing the important contribution of all hospital workers and creating strong family-sustaining jobs in our communities. The average wage for service workers will rise from $14.20 to $19.28 over the 3-year contract. For registered nurses, both sides were committed to negotiating pay that will attract and retain the best nurses to serve our patients, resulting in almost 12% in raises.

Included in this were additional steps in the pay scale to reward and retain experienced and dedicated hospital employees who play a critical role in operations, and also to help the hospital stay competitive in recruiting more dedicated staff to serve our community.

“We’re very excited about this new contract because it will help us recruit the new staff that we urgently need, but it also helps us hold on to our most experienced staff,” said Jane Davis, a 23-year employee in the Lab. “Some of us have dedicated decades of our lives to this hospital, and in many ways, we’re the backbone of the hospital. We need to keep that experience right here at Allegheny Valley.”

The new contract also reflects investments by management to provide additional staffing in each unit of the hospital so nurses and aides will have fewer patients, and to ensure that as healthcare demands are changing in our community that AVH can provide the highest quality of care and best patient experience.

“Every staff member in our hospital – from nurses to aides – wants to give their very best to each patient. With these staffing improvements, we’ll be able to spend more time with our patients and deliver the top quality care our community deserves,” said Mary Kuniak, a registered nurse with 14 years of service at the hospital.

The contract covers nearly 600 employees at Allegheny Valley Hospital and will expire in 2021. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania represents 3,500 nurses and service workers across the Allegheny Health Network.

 

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Workers at Chestnut Hill and Pottstown Hospitals Stand Up to Tower Health’s Unhealthy Proposals and Policies

Workers at Chestnut Hill Hospital

Workers at Chestnut Hill Hospital

On Wednesday, August 22, service and technical workers, maintenance and dietary staff, housekeepers, transporters, nurses and nursing assistants from Chestnut Hill Hospital (CHH) and Pottstown Hospital gathered in front of their respective facilities to deliver a message to the owner of both hospitals — Tower Health. The message?

“We demand respect!”

Workers at both CHH and Pottstown Hospital, have been in contract negotiations for months and have consistently met with unmoving Tower administrators who refuse to compromise on key issues.

One such issue is Tower’s proposed healthcare plan which would force many workers at CHH to travel over 50 miles to see a doctor in-network.

“We live in Philadelphia and my son’s doctor isn’t covered by the Tower plan,” said Venus Russell, a unit secretary at CHH. “We would have to travel to Reading to see a specialist under their plan or else I would have to pay out-of-network prices. I can’t afford that. I don’t know anyone who can.”

“And if we did go to Reading to see a doctor,” Russell continued, “we’d have to take an Uber or a Lyft and that would cost $70 one way. I looked it up. I can’t afford that either.”

Ashantay has lived in Pottstown her whole life and can’t afford Tower’s healthcare for her daughter’s epilepsy.

Ashantay has lived in Pottstown her whole life and can’t afford Tower’s healthcare for her daughter’s epilepsy.

In Pottstown, workers called Tower Health out for its poor treatment of the Pottstown community — most notably in its arranging for the hospital to gain non-profit status from the Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals, taking more than a million dollars away from local schools and borough services this year.

But foremost on Pottstown workers’ minds was Tower’s obvious lack of respect for the success Pottstown Hospital has enjoyed for decades before Tower Health purchased it. That success, they say, is all thanks to the people who work there.

“Pottstown Hospital is able to deliver such a high level of care because of the hard work, talent, and skill of the people who work here,” said Terry Flicker, a unit clerk in the hospital’s short procedure unit. “Tower’s proposals cut benefits and incentives making it tremendously difficult to attract and retain the best employees and to keep delivering the quality of care we’re known for.”

Also at issue for both hospitals are Tower’s proposals to cut vacation and sick time benefits, holiday pay, uniform allowances, and other incentives meant to attract and retain a high-quality workforce. These cuts, workers say, amount to Tower disinvesting in staff and short-changing the communities that their hospitals serve.

“This is our hospital,” said Angela Ray, who has worked in the dietary department at CHH for more than 11 years. “It belongs to the people who work here and to the community. We are what makes Chestnut Hill Hospital great.”

Chestnut Hill Hospital CNA Gary Canada speaks to local news about workers' efforts to negotiate a fair contract.

Chestnut Hill Hospital CNA Gary Canada speaks to local news about workers’ efforts to negotiate a fair contract.

Workers from both hospitals said they are willing to do whatever it takes to bargain a fair contract — one that respects workers, acknowledges their contribution to the hospitals’ success and invests in their communities.

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Geisinger Wyoming Valley RNs Win Strong Four-Year Contract!

GWV Bargaining Committee 2018 Banner

On Thursday, January 31st, Registered Nurses at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center ratified a strong new union contract! The four-year agreement puts in place positive changes to improve bedside care and recruit and retain experienced, skilled nurses.

“It’s a new day for all of us,” said Kim Klinger, who has been a GWV RN since 2003. “This is a great achievement for nurses, our hospital, and all our patients.”

The contract includes:

  • Improved staffing language so RNs have more input into the staffing needs of their patients;
  • Changes to on-call use to prevent nurse burnout;
  • Guaranteed yearly wage increases (3% each year);
  • Better training for RNs who float between departments; and
  • A student loan assistance program for RNs who stay at the hospital more than 10 years.

“Education improvements are going to have a big impact on nurse retention,” said Klinger. “Nurses will come here, stay here, and their skills and experience will benefit our patients.”

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Fulton County Medical Center Workers Ratify New Five-Year Contract

When Fulton County Medical Center (FCMC) announced they would be outsourcing their dietary department, workers there were concerned. The group had never really been involved with the union and initially wanted to trust management and give them a chance to do the right thing.

FCMC Dietary WebBut suddenly, reality hit. The new contracting company was not going to honor seniority. People being hired off the street would start at a higher wage rate than experienced staff who had been working there for years. Workers saw shrinking paychecks as their years of service were not honored and their healthcare costs jumped.

Workers who had been in that department for over 30 years suddenly felt disrespected. They were outsiders.

Dietary workers realized they needed a voice and a way to fight back and the way to do that was to organize. The entire department signed on to become full members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and, in solidarity, headed into contract negotiations with the new company to demand a fair contract for their work.

The new company didn’t think the workers would stick together and was ready to pounce. What they didn’t know was that these healthcare workers were ready to RISE and realize their collective strength.

That strength ultimately meant victory for the workers. In the end, they won a five-year contract that includes:

  • Wage increases that bring all workers over $10 an hour;
  • Tenure bonus to encourage retention;
  • A retirement plan;
  • Fair Paid Time Off that recognizes years of service;
  • Seniority protections;
  • Full union security;
  • Improved bereavement leave;
  • Guaranteed yearly wage increases;
  • Successorship language; and
  • A medical insurance stipend

When workers come together to form a union, they find the power they were lacking as individuals in the workplace. When workers stick together, they can accomplish anything. When we fight, we win!

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SEIU Healthcare PA Endorses Nurse Michelle Boyle for State Senate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Boyle, a registered nurse and member of the healthcare union, is running for a state Senate seat in Pennsylvania’s 38th district

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PA — Michelle Boyle, a registered nurse and Allegheny County resident, launches her campaign for Pennsylvania State Senate in Allegheny County’s 38th District today, winning enthusiastic endorsement from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the state’s largest healthcare workers’ union. On behalf of the nearly 45,000 union members, President Matthew Yarnell issued the following statement:

“With the health, security, and quality of life of working people under constant attack from corporations and out of touch politicians in Harrisburg and Washington, we need real leaders we can trust to help us fight back. Michelle Boyle — as a nurse, a mother, and a community leader — has stood up for her patients and working families her entire career. Nursing is America’s most trusted profession because nurses like Michelle are relentless advocates for the people they serve — this is exactly the kind of commitment we need in Harrisburg. It’s the kind of leadership that Michelle Boyle will bring to the state senate.”

Boyle issued the following response to the union’s endorsement:

“I promise to represent my constituents with the same commitment, compassion, and unrelenting advocacy, that I have brought my patients in my 24 years as a nurse.”

“I am incredibly honored to have earned the support of the hard-working medical professionals of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. As a nurse and healthcare provider myself, I know the struggles that working families are living every day. If elected to the state senate, I will advocate for them with just as much dedication.”

Michelle Boyle’s official campaign kick-off event is tonight, Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Tazza d’Oro in Millvale, 524 Grant Ave., Millvale, PA 15209.

For more info contact James Myers: james.myers@seiuhcpa.org; 215-479-2213

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SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and healthcare 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 healthcare workers` and ensuring quality care and healthy communities and for all Pennsylvanians.

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Easton Hospital Techs Ratify New Contract

Easton Techs

In November, tech workers at Easton Hospital overwhelmingly ratified a new one-year contract with the hospital’s new owner, Steward Hospital.

Workers at Easton are looking forward to building a productive working relationship with Steward and took some important first steps in their first contract like across the board increases, recognition for tech leads, cross-training language, creation of a weekend program, increased leave of absence time and more which will positively impact patient care and services.

Union members at Easton hospital are happy with the new agreement and are already preparing to make even more improvements next year. Congratulations to our sisters and brothers at Easton Hospital!

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Union Nurses Help and Heal on Puerto Rico Relief Mission

Union members volunteer in Puerto Rico

Union members volunteer in Puerto Rico

This past summer we all watched as three catastrophic hurricanes hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Millions of Americans struggled to survive and put their lives back together in the aftermath and I knew I wanted to help, but I wasn’t sure how.

When my chapter president told me our national union was looking for nurses to join a relief mission to Puerto Rico organized by labor unions, I jumped at the chance. I had always wanted to contribute my skills and nursing expertise when our union organized trips during other disasters, but with young children at home I hadn’t been able to go. Now that my kids are grown, I felt it was time for me to go.

With the support of my husband, manager and colleagues at Heritage Valley Beaver Hospital, I prepared to leave for Puerto Rico in a matter of days. I left Newark, N.J. on a flight with over 300 union members, all strangers. My colleagues at Heritage Valley Beaver Hospital sent me off with a suitcase bursting with donations of medical supplies, new clothing and toys.

Before we left we were told to expect long days and rough conditions. I knew from watching television news coverage that there wouldn’t be electricity, and communications from the island would be unpredictable at best. Even expecting the worst, I was shocked by the conditions we found there. Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

For a lot of us, losing power briefly can be an inconvenience, but as nurses we know it can be deadly. Patients who rely on dialysis, oxygen or refrigerated insulin simply can’t get by without it. By the time we arrived in Puerto Rico, people living in the small towns and isolated areas outside the capital city of San Juan had been without power for a month with no relief in sight.

Given the confusion on the ground, donations were not always getting to all the people who needed them. One of the nurses on the trip started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for supplies. We all shared it with our friends and families back home and were able to raise $52,000 in just two weeks. We bought water and food wherever we could find it and took it into the small towns and communities outside San Juan.

Getting to those communities was a complicated process. Many roads were impassable due to downed trees and bamboo. The constant rain made everything worse, causing mudslides that washed out roads. Sometimes buses and trucks were no use when trying to reach the people who needed us the most. When that happened, we got out and walked, carrying water, food and medical supplies.Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico 3

I can’t describe the living conditions as anything other than horrendous. In one town we visited, the flood water had reached eight feet and stayed there for a month. This left houses and buildings covered with mold. The flood waters were filled with dead animals, rats, feces and all the bacteria that comes with it. In each town we visited we set up a clinic where we could see patients and provide education, particularly about the importance of drinking clean water. We saw a lot of conjunctivitis, skin and foot infections, leptospirosis, respiratory issues and a few cases of cholera. For people already living in poor health that comes with severe poverty, these kinds of illnesses can be life or death. We did our best to treat those conditions on top of the high rates of diabetes and hypertension people had before the hurricane.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life, but I wish we could have stayed longer. The people of Puerto Rico have largely been ignored and they need so much more help. Seeing the immense need, the tears from people who have lost everything, who are doing their best to manage in the face of unbelievable difficulties, makes me so glad I went. And ready to volunteer again in the future.

I went to Puerto Rico on a plane full of strangers, but I came back with a family. I will never forget the relationships I built with other union members from different places, different backgrounds and different jobs by working together to help people who needed us.

As nurses, we have a calling to help and heal. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do that for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. If you would like to help you can donate by clicking here

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1,300 AGH Nurses Approve New Contract!

1,300 Nurses at Allegheny General Hospital ratify new union contract focused on recruitment, retention, and high quality patient care


On Monday, October 30, 2017, an overwhelming majority of the 1,300 registered nurses at Allegheny General Hospital voted to approve a new union contract after reaching an agreement with management that raises hiring rates for nurses, provides longevity increases for experienced nurses, and continues to improve the nurse to patient ratios which are currently part of the contract on all inpatient units. This contract also secures nurses defined benefit pension and other retirement benefits, and maintains high quality affordable healthcare benefits for nurses.

“Throughout these negotiations, we have remained focused on two goals: making sure there are always enough nurses at the bedside for our patients, and that our input is respected in care-delivery decisions,” said Cathy Stoddart, President of the nurses’ union. “This contract achieves those goals and we’re looking forward to the improvements in patient care that come with it.”

In addition to investing in nurses pay and compensation and resources towards RN staffing, the contract expands the quality and process improvement initiatives that nurses have spearheaded over the last seven years. Nurses at the hospital know that these provisions in the new contract will make Allegheny General Hospital the employer of choice for RNs in the region enhancing to recruit and retain nurses, an issue that has become essential in the highly competitive Pittsburgh health care market.

“Nurses have been leading quality improvement and innovation at Allegheny General, and we’re excited that those programs will expand under this contract,” said Stoddart. “We know that AHN will be leading in this region in both patient safety and highest quality of care with these investments for patients and nurses in our union contract. This contract is an open invitation for nurses to come apply at AGH because we have created a better work environment where nurses are respected and rewarded for the care we give.”

 

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Beaver Area Member RN Joins Puerto Rico Relief Efforts

For Immediate Release 

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania orthopedic nurse from Heritage Beaver Valley Hospital joins 200 skilled union members in two-week Puerto Rico relief trip.

Beaver County, PA — Last week, Wendy Snyder, an orthopedic nurse at Heritage Beaver Valley Hospital, joined 200 first responders and skilled volunteers from over 17 states to help with relief efforts and the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.

The volunteers will spend two weeks in Puerto Rico coordinating with the Puerto Rico AFL-CIO and the city of San Juan on various efforts including helping clear road blockages, servicing hospital patients, delivering emergency supplies and restoring power and communications.

Just a few days ago organizers from the AFL-CIO asked union members to volunteer to provide relief services in what is being called the ‘the single biggest hurricane catastrophe in the history of the US.’ Hundreds of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania nurses didn’t hesitate to offer their time and expertise to the people suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

“God has been very good to me and I’ve wanted to find a way to give back for a long time but didn’t feel I could leave my kids when they were little. Now that they’re grown I was thrilled to be able to answer my union’s call for volunteers to help in Puerto Rico.

I’ve been told to expect to work long hours in facilities with limited power and few of the services we take for granted in our hospitals. We will need to react to the needs on the ground as they change and do our best to care for the people who have been living through this devastation.

I’m not the only nurse in my union who volunteered. I heard that in just a few days hundreds of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania nurses volunteered to go help in the hurricane disaster areas in Puerto Rico as well as Florida and Texas, on their own time. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough room on the plane for everyone who wanted to go. I know that unions all over the country are trying to put together more flights and opportunities for nurses to take our very important skills to the people who need us the most right now.

When my colleagues heard that I was going, they all jumped in and purchased much-needed supplies. I have a large suitcase packed with medical supplies, toys, books, stickers, stuffed animals and brand new clothes for the families who have lost everything; I barely had room to pack anything for myself. I was touched by the generosity and quick action of my colleagues.”

The AFL-CIO, Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and United Airlines teamed up to take the skilled volunteers to Puerto Rico and deliver donated food, water, and essential supplies to those who need it most.

The San Juan Coliseum has been turned into dormitory-style housing with cots to house the volunteers. The trip’s organizers will coordinate transporting work crews to sites throughout San Juan and the rest of the island based on where their skills are needed most urgently. Volunteers will try to send periodic updates during the next two weeks, but it is unclear if the communication infrastructure on the island will be up and running. The volunteers will return to Newark on October 18.

Contact: Krysta Curl 202-568-072; Krysta.Curl@movementcomms.com

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SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and healthcare 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. Together, we work to protect patient care, expand access to quality health care for all, and to lives of healthcare workers. We accomplish these goals by organizing non-union healthcare workers, driving industry standards in our contracts and fighting for legislation that affects health care in our state.

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