WB General RNs Set Strike Date of Feb. 13 If No Agreement Reached
Wilkes-Barre, P.A. - Registered nurses at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike for one day on February 13 if a union contract cannot be settled before then.
The Wyoming Valley Nurses Association has informed hospital management they are willing to bargain every day until an agreement is reached. The hospital has agreed to one bargaining date on Thursday, January 24.
WVNA nurses have been in contract negotiations with the Hospital since December 2017 with staffing needs in the forefront of their negotiations.
Elaine Weale, RN, president of WVNA, said, "We're hopeful that we can reach agreement at Thursday's session and a strike can be averted. Recent PA Department of Health citations verified the concerns with staffing and patient care that we have been raising for years. Management has not yet agreed to fix these serious problems to our satisfaction and we continue to urge them to put patients before profits."
In a PA Department of Health inspection report issued in November following an unannounced visit, the hospital was cited for violations of nineteen state and federal health codes related to patient rights, staffing, and emergency services.
The investigators described a “systemic nature of non-compliance with regards to nursing services” stating that management “failed to schedule a sufficient number of RNs and/or ancillary staff on the nursing units for 81 of 148 shifts reviewed.” The report found 91 open RN positions and reliance on an excessive use of overtime.
Wilkes-Barre General Hospital is owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, the largest for-profit hospital company in the United States. Their hospital system in northeast Pennsylvania includes six hospitals operating as “Commonwealth Health”.
In December, the union nurses also released a report on conditions within the hospital including a financial review of Community Health Systems. Their review of data provided by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council found that from 2015 to 2017, the hospital grossed $827 million in revenue and $11 million in profit.
With concern for the assurance of patient care during the one-day strike and in order to fulfill the requirements set by law to assure the same, WVNA will send a notice ten days prior to the work stoppage to allow for the hospital to plan for the provision of patient care. The union is waiting to submit the official notice in hopes an agreement will be reached.
The Wyoming Valley Nurses Association is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a union of dedicated nurses and health professionals across Pennsylvania, formed in 2000 and dedicated to the belief that patients receive the best care when clinical care staff has a strong voice to advocate for both patients and themselves.
Wilkes-Barre is the county seat of Luzerne County, a key swing area for statewide and national elections.
Terry Marcavage, PASNAP Staff Representative
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Alex Lotorto, PASNAP Organizer
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