Sign up for
Email Updates

State Professionals

Victory! We’ve Protected Hundreds of Prison Nurses and Our Public Health

Just today, we received word from the PA DOC’s Secretary John Wetzel that, because of our hard work, plans to contract out nursing services in the DOC will not proceed. Instead the Department of Corrections has elected to continue the present level of contracted medical, psychiatric, and pharmacy services.

“We are thrilled that the Department of Corrections has chosen to recognize the irreplaceable value of our service and abandon plans to outsource healthcare services in the DOC,” said Renee Walligan, nurse from SCI,”As frontline nurses who work in our correctional facilities, we know the risks we face each day and the need for having trained, experienced Commonwealth healthcare professionals in place to keep our prisons secure and the public safe.”

This victory tonight could not have been possible without the determined efforts of all of our members and allies who have worked hard for months to get our message out by holding ten informational pickets, lobbying our legislators, signing petitions by the hundreds and packing the room at a legislative hearing in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. We saw that our voices were being heard as legislators stepped up from both sides of the aisle and sponsored legislation that would prohibit state funds from being used to privatize nursing in the DOC.

And finally our efforts have paid off. As a result of our unity and resolve, we have protected over 800 good family sustaining jobs here in Pennsylvania, 300 of which belong to our

We could have not done this alone – courageous men and women from across our union and other organizations – including AFSCME and the PA State Corrections Officers Association, as well as our legislators that stood up for us, helped us reach our goal.

Tonight is a victory for hardworking healthcare professionals all across Pennsylvania!

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Frontline DOC Employees Testify at House Majority Policy Committee

Privatizing will NOT Save Money and will Put Staff and Public at Risk

On Friday, March 16th at 10:00 AM, a panel of witnesses, including frontline Department of Corrections employees, offered testimony at a House Majority Policy Committee hearing (sponsored by Rep. Mike Fleck) at Juniata College that challenged Corbett Administration’s assertion that outsourcing health care services in the DOC will save money and not compromise safety and security both within and outside prison walls.
The House Majority Policy Committee, comprised of Rep. Mike Fleck, Rep. Dave Reed, Rep. Jerry Stern, and Rep. Adam Harris received testimony from Michele Harker, RN at SCI Huntingdon, Donald Moore, Corrections Officer at SCI Huntingdon,  Frank Smith, nationally renowned expert on prison privatization, and Kim Patterson, Secretary Treasurer of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania that explored the myriad of risks posed by privatizing this core responsibility of government including reduced prison security, unrealized cost savings and compromised public safety.
Michelle Harker presented testimony portraying the critical role Commonwealth nurses play as the firewall in place to prevent a public health crisis. Many inmates are infected with serious infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis. DOC nurses teach inmates how to maintain their treatment on the outside and educate them on how to prevent spreading their illnesses. “The majority of inmates will return to their communities and, in many cases, the work of DOC nurses is key to preventing these inmates from infecting other family members or the community.”
In addition to protecting public safety, Commonwealth nurses are key to maintaining safety and security within the prison walls, achieved after months of training and years of experience.  Donald Moore, Corrections Officer at SCI Huntingdon, described the interaction between the Correctional staff and nurses as a tight unit that takes years to establish.  With outsourcing this team will be fractured. “My co-workers and I are very concerned that with subcontracting we will face a huge turnover with the nursing staff and will lose an important part of our security team. We will lose that knowledge of the inmates the nurses provide us and we won’t know that the nurses have our back.”
Finally, panelists challenged the core motivating factor Governor Corbett has used to justify prison health care outsourcing  – cost savings. Not only does outsourcing not necessarily save taxpayers money through hidden costs and cost overruns, underbidding ignores the value of the current workforce.
“Considering that the average Pennsylvania prison nursing professional has eleven years on the job, such tenure represents a substantial investment in training and continuing education of nurses, likely tens of thousands of hours accomplished at considerable public expense,” said Frank Smith, a nationally renowned expert on prison privatization.  Recruitment and retention within the Correctional system is already a challenge, which will only grow exponentially within the revolving door of as-needed agency nurses. Valuable public dollars will be drained constantly retraining this workforce.
Despite the Corbett Administration’s push to privatize, rising opposition both in the public and legislature is casting a shadow on the Governor’s plan.  Legislation (House Bill 1985, introduced by Representative Fleck, and Senate bill 1342 introduced by Senator Argall) that would prohibit outsourcing nursing services in state prisons is gaining bipartisan support in both houses of the state legislature.  “This bill has significant bi-partisan support,” said Rep. Fleck, “perhaps more so than any other bill I’ve been associated with.”
Among the audience were well over 30 RNs, LPNs, supervisors and health care workers from 12 separate correctional institutions from around the state – SCI Cresson, Houtzdale, Green, Greensburg, Somerset, Huntingdon, Camp Hill, Fayette, Cambridge Spring, Springfield, Mercer and Forest.
Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

New Report Released on the Risks of Privatizing the DOC

Governor Corbett’s proposal to privatize our DOC health care services is bad for nurses, bad for the public and falls far short of projected cost savings, reads a new report just released by SEIU Healthcare PA and the CLEAR Coalition.

“The history of contracted prison health care both in Pennsylvania and across the country is a history of unrealized cost savings, lawsuits and diminished care. Expanding the scope of privatized healthcare will likely result in more of the same for the DOC,” states the report, “Department of Corrections Healthcare: Public Health and Safety in the Commonwealth’s Prisons.”

With examples from across the country of unsuccessful attempts at privatizing prison health care services, this report undermines Governor Corbett’s claims that outsourcing with maintain security, safety and reduce state dollars spent. Some highlights include:

Inaccurate Savings Projections:
“Cost overruns combined with hidden and indirect costs, such as contract monitoring and administration, can make privatization more expensive than in-house services for governments.”

Compromised Nurse Security:
“Agency nurses do not have the same training and experience in security protocols that DOC nurses have… and do not view themselves as part of the security team and place an extra strain on DOC staff.”

Reduced Public Safety:
“Agency nurses do not have the same level of commitment to educating inmates about managing their conditions and diseases for their eventual return to the community. Health education is an involved process that takes time and requires establishing a rapport with the patient. A more transient workforce will be less effective at education than a stable, dedicated workforce.”

Download a copy of the report.

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

DOC Nurses Deck the Halls of Harrisburg

A half-dozen corrections nurses (along with one 2-year-old little elf) traveled to Harrisburg to deck the halls of the state capitol building on Tuesday, December 13. The group spread holiday cheer to lawmakers, thanking the 63 sponsors who’ve already signed on to our cause, and reaching out to those who haven’t yet joined us.

The group delivered holiday cards to the offices of House and Senate members in support of House Bill 1985, introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Fleck, and Senate Bill 1342, introduced by Republican Sen. David Argall. The bills, unveiled the same day as our informational picket last month, would put a stop to the administration’s plan to outsource nursing jobs at our prisons.

While the legislature is now in recess until next year, our work is just beginning. We continue to deliver our cards and carry our message to legislative offices across Pennsylvania.

We will not stop until every lawmaker and every citizen in every corner of the state has received our message, loud and clear: All we want this holiday is a safe and secure community!

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Nurses Stand Up Against Outsourcing in Prisons

Registered nurses at correctional facilities across Pennsylvania stood up for safety and security in our communities and against outsourcing of health care jobs on November 16th at informational pickets outside ten state prisons.

Despite the constant rain, more than 100 nurses led dozens of allies from other unions and the community at State Correctional Institutions at Albion, Camp Hill, Coal, Graterford, Greene, Greensburg, Houtzdale, Mercer, Retreat and Rockview. The pickets were organized after the state announced in September that it planned to seek bids from subcontractors to fill DOC nursing jobs.

“The safety and security of our citizens is a basic government service. Sadly, the plan to outsource health care work at our state prisons puts our entire population at risk, inside and outside these walls,” said Shawn Baer, a registered nurse at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg. “As nurses, we do more than just provide health care. We are an important part of the security team. We can’t pass off this important work to a private company.”

Sign this petition opposing Governor Corbett’s plan to outsource prison nurses.

As our pickets got underway, State Rep. Mike Fleck held a news conference in Harrisburg to introduce House Bill 1985, which would stop the outsourcing plan. State Sen. David G. Argall is proposing similar legislation in the Senate. Watch their press conference:

Click here to stand up for safety and STOP THE OUTSOURCING of health care jobs!

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

State nurses ratify new agreement!

The Commonwealth Health Professionals, members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, have overwhelmingly ratified their new 4-year agreement by 93 percent. The new contract follows the other unions, with a 10.75% wage increase over the next 4 years and no increase in healthcare until 2014 when all but a ½ percent of the 2 percent increase can be avoided by enrolling in the “get healthy” program.  In return, on January 1, 2012 members will cap sick time accrual at 11 days, 2 days less than their current 13.

“Members feel good about the settlement.  At a time when public sector unions are under attack across the country, we were able to maintain good standards, get a respectable increase and increase our ability to advocate for our patients and our profession,” said Harriet Lenair, an RN at Wernersville State Hospital.

In addition, there were important improvements to education benefits including certification pay, out-service training, and an additional education day.  Members will have the ability to request civil leave for disaster relief efforts, advocate for their profession through recruitment and retention discussions and renegotiate particular sections should nurse licensure requirements change during the 4 year agreement.

CONGRATULATIONS to the negotiating committee and all State nurses for standing together to reach this settlement!

Our fight has just begun to protect healthcare services for the people of the Commonwealth, ensure that corporations making huge profits in this state are paying their fair share, and stand up to the threats of privatization and downsizing of State services.

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

PA Supreme Court Victory: No More Payless Paydays for State Employees!

Unions that represent state employees in PA joined together in a lawsuit to end payless paydays once and for all. The PA Supreme Court has ruled that most state employees must be paid for working during a budget impasse.

Read this Patriot-News article for more information.

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment