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Department of Corrections to Close SCI Pittsburgh

Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced it will close SCI Pittsburgh in order to make up for major budget shortfalls caused by lack of revenue. SCI Pittsburgh currently employs a total of 555 people, including 16 nurses. Nearly 1,900 inmates will need to be transferred to other facilities.

“It’s a disgrace that the politicians in Harrisburg didn’t find revenue needed to keep our institutions functioning when the money is out there. Instead of taking it out on the middle class working people they should be making sure big corporations are paying their fair share,” said Vista Johnson, a nurse at SCI Mercer. Johnson, a member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, has been dreading this day since the Department of Corrections first made the announcement. The list of possible closures included SCI Mercer, where Johnson has been a nurse for eight years.

“I appreciate that the Wolf Administration and DOC have been put into a very difficult position because of the failure of Republican leadership, but its unclear if this move will actually save us any money in the long run,” said Kevin Hefty, a Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the union that represents nurses employed by the Department of Corrections. “SCI Pittsburgh’s proximity to health facilities allows the Commonwealth to treat some very sick inmates at a lower cost. It has an oncology unit and those inmates, if transferred, would likely need to travel to Pittsburgh hospitals for treatment. Closing Pittsburgh means transferring these expensive inmates to other facilities that may not have the capacity or experience with such a challenging population. Any short-term savings will likely be offset by longer-term per inmate costs in the receiving institutions.”

Union leaders will be begin meetings with Office of Administration and Department of Corrections officials Monday to discuss how SCI Pittsburgh staff will be impacted and placements rights to other jobs.

If you have any questions, please contact Mike Forbes at Mike.Forbes@seiuhcpa.org.

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Speaking Out for Nursing Home Accountability

Following up on a report and legislation introduced last week that offers a path to improve nursing home accountability in terms of spending, staffing and reporting, over 100 nursing home workers gathered in Harrisburg on March 18 to build support with lawmakers.

“I work as a CNA because I love taking care of my residents,” says Florise Louis, a licensed nurse practitioner from East Stroudsburg, “But too often, we have to work short staffed without the supplies we need. This adds extra stress and affects the quality of care we can give our residents. For our seniors this is unacceptable and I am going to Harrisburg to tell my legislators just that.”

As a result of report findings and in-district legislative visits caregivers have held throughout the year to demand increased nursing home industry accountability, legislators have responded, introducing a package of legislation to address current gaps in reporting, staffing and spending requirements.

Senate Bill 624, sponsored by Senator Sean Wiley (D-Erie)  would require nursing homes to meet a minimum level of nurse aide staffing.  Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington) is sponsoring Senate Bill 625 and 626 that would require nursing homes to report turnover and staffing levels to the Department of Health and require nursing homes spend a minimum amount of their Medicaid resident care per diem rate, respectively.

“Providing quality care to our seniors is the reason why nursing homes exist in the first place,” said Donna Heimbach, a certified nursing assistant from Lewistown . “As a CNA who is responsible for providing most of the hands-on resident care, I am thrilled with the idea of legislation that will increase the amount of time, money and accountability that goes toward improving care.  We all have to work together to make sure our tax dollars are spent appropriately.  After all, sooner or later, we could be the ones receiving care.”

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New Report Reveals Nursing Home Profitability

Pennsylvania nursing homes made $500 million in profit in 2011 but a new report shows that nearly one in three failed to spend all of the state funding intended for residents on actual resident care.  Meanwhile, most nursing home workers struggle to make ends meet, according to the report recently released from the state’s largest nursing home workers union, “Pennsylvania’s Long Term Care System: Building Careers, Enhancing Quality Resident Care.”

Report findings include:

  • In 2011, the Pennsylvania nursing home industry generated an estimated $511 million in net income.
  • Despite high profits, the report found that one in three failed to spend all of the state funding intended for residents on actual resident care.
  • Most nursing home workers can’t support their families because of low wages with the average worker earning under 30,000 per year.
  • In a 2012 phone survey of Pennsylvania nursing home workers, 54% say their facility is sometimes adequately staffed and 27% say their facility is never adequately staffed.

The effects of inadequate staffing takes its toll on caregivers and residents alike. “On my assignment, I’m supposed to care for 9 or 10 residents. With that many residents, I usually have between 15 and 20 minutes to get them out of bed in the morning and move them to the dining room” said Yeta Okoth, a caregiver from Harrisburg. ”Unfortunately, often times I don’t even have those 15-20 minutes. On many days we are short staffed and I’m responsible for 14-15 residents. On those mornings when I walk into a room, I’d better have my towels, washcloth and soap ready.”

For months, caregivers have been meeting with their legislators in their districts to urge them to hold nursing homes more accountable to taxpayers, residents, and caregivers – and legislators are readying a package of legislation to do just that. Newly proposed legislation would require nursing homes to meet a minimum level of nurse aide staffing, report turnover and staffing levels to the Department of Health, and require nursing homes spend a minimum amount of their Medicaid resident care per diem rate.

“Quality nursing home care is vital to the Commonwealth’s seniors and the industry is also a major employer throughout the state,” said Senator Sean Wiley (D-49). “As legislators, we have a responsibility to ensure that every facility meets minimum standards of care so we know that our seniors are receiving the best possible care.”

“We need to ensure that the Commonwealth’s healthcare dollars are spent as intended – to provide the best possible care for our elderly and to ensure that caregivers have the resources they need to do their job well,” said Senator Matt Smith (D-37). “We owe that to our seniors.”

Download the report here.

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Golden Living Center LPNs Unite!

Over the past thirty years, hard working women and men at Golden Living nursing homes (formerly known as Beverly Enterprises) have built their unions and united statewide for maximum power. They’ve stood up against assaults on their union organizing rights, organized their co-workers and built one of the strongest statewide contracts for nursing home workers in Pennsylvania.

As Golden Living workers at 26 facilities started preparing to negotiate a new statewide contract in the fall, Licensed Practical Nurses from various facilities decided that they too wanted to have a voice for themselves and for their residents.

Beginning in October LPNs from GLC Blue Ridge Mountain, then GLC Meyersdale, GLC West Shore and GLC Titusville, united with their co-workers and joined the union. Overall, nearly 100 Golden Living LPNs joined our union since October, with more facilities in the process. They join more than 2200 other Golden Living workers united for a fair contract!

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Friendship Ridge Nursing Home Workers Rally Against Privatization

For over 60 years, Friendship Ridge nursing home has provided quality care to seniors in Blair County.

Citing financial concerns, County Commissioners announced plans to sell the home in December. They said $5 million would need to be cut from the home’s budget in order for them to reconsider. Workers quickly came together and formed a committee to come up with a proposal, making the hard decisions necessary to achieve those kinds of cuts.

“We have worked very hard on this proposal and will continue working to protect our seniors, because we know a county-owned nursing home is better than a corporation who puts profits over people,” said Denise Cox, who has worked at Friendship Ridge for 27 years. “We are trying to protect the home to hundreds of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Friendship Ridge is also a great asset to Beaver County. In 2011, the home generated over $57 million in revenue, and nearly 75% of that was from state and federal funding. Not to mention the family-sustaining jobs it provides, which are vital to the local economy.

On February 14th, workers held a rally, asking Commissioners to “have a heart,” accept their proposal, and preserve Friendship Ridge. They were joined by community and religious leaders and family of Friendship Ridge residents. You can find out more and sign their petition to protect Beaver County seniors at www.ProtectBeaverCountySeniors.org

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Check Out Our All In Petition

On Tuesday, February 5 and Wednesday, February 6, we will begin our next bargaining session with GLC and Extendicare in Harrisburg.

To show them our strength in numbers, almost 3,000 of us signed our All In Unity petition. Now we have to keep working to get the rest of our employers on board.

All In For Quality Care Petition

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7,000 Nursing Home Workers are All In

On Tuesday, January 15, nearly 7,000 nursing home workers began bargaining new union contracts. Together, we are aiming to improve resident care, achieve family-sustaining wages and benefits and gain access to training opportunities that will help make our nursing home jobs high quality careers.

What’s more, as the healthcare system undergoes fundamental change,we need to have a voice in decisions that will affect our jobs as well as the industry as a whole.

And the stakes are high. Hear from Danielle Fox, a LPN from State College, PA about why coordinated bargaining matters to her and the residents she cares for each day. Together we are on the road to improving long term care!

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Bargaining Begins on January 15!

On Tuesday, January 15, nearly 7,000 nursing home workers  will begin bargaining new union contracts. Together, we are aiming to improve resident care, achieve family-sustaining wages and benefits and gain access to training opportunities that will help make our nursing home jobs high quality careers.

What’s more, as the healthcare system undergoes fundamental change,we need to have a voice in decisions that will affect our jobs as well as the industry as a whole.

And the stakes are high. Hear from Danielle Fox, a LPN from State College, PA about why coordinated bargaining matters to her and the residents she cares for each day. Together we are  on the road to improving long term care!

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Broomall Workers Overwhelmingly Ratify Their Contract

After a two and a half years of trying to gain employer recognition for their union, nursing home workers at Broomall Presbyterian Village overwhelmingly ratified their contract on Friday, December 21, 2012.  Gaining union recognition has not been easy for the 130 Broomall employees, who first voted to form their union in  April, 2010, and then a second time in July 2012 following a one day unfair labor practice strike in April 2011 and then another in December 2011.

But the new contract, which expires in 2013, not only guarantees union recognition and protects against unfair discipline, it also establishes across the board wage increases, safe staffing language and contributions to workers’ pensions. “There were times throughout the last few years I thought we would never succeed in securing our union contract,” said Sandra Hutson, CNA ,”But we did not give up and emerged on the other side with a contract that protects our union and works to improve care for our residents. This is something we can all be thankful for this holiday season.”

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Telling Our Story

With over 7,000 nursing home members in our union, we all have a different story to tell. Telling others about the challenges we face and deep care and dedication we have for our residents can help us achieve the support and resources we need to do the best job possible. For our residents, our communities and ourselves, our story matters.

Meet Kerri Baker, a CNA from Lafayette Manor in Uniontown, and hear her story.

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