FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bill Cruice, PASNAP Executive Director - firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-219-6387
After Two-Day Strike and Three-Day Lockout, DCMH Nurses and Techs Return to Work Vowing to Continue Their Fight for Safe Staffing
Drexel Hill, PA | March 9, 2016 — Nurses and technicians at Delaware County Memorial Hospital began a two-day strike on Sunday, March 5th. Then, despite repeated offers to return to work as planned, the hospital’s for-profit owner, Prospect Medical Holdings, locked them out for three additional days, refusing to allow them to return to their jobs. Now, with the strike and lockout coming to an end, nurses and techs will re-enter the hospital Friday at 6:30 AM.
The nurses and technicians, who are represented by PASNAP, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, received an outpouring of support as they picketed the hospital demanding better staffing.
“We had firefighters bringing us coffee and asking to help. We had former patients and retired coworkers picking up signs and marching with us. We had Democratic and Republican elected leaders standing with us outside of the hospital,” said Angela Neopolitano, a 36-year Registered Nurse and president of the union at DCMH. “The community is with us because they know that we’re looking out for them. This is about patient care and we’re their voice inside the hospital.”
A number of patients and family members came out of the hospital to convey their support to the nurses and techs on the picket line as well as their concerns about the care being provided during the lockout. One of these was John Spencer, whose wife gave birth at the hospital last week. It was a difficult delivery that necessitated an extension of his wife's stay past the start of the strike and the successive lockout. Mr. Spencer said that while he and his family had always received great care from the regular nursing staff at DCMH, he was concerned about the care being provided by the replacement staff. Hours went by without his wife being cared for, and serious medical issues had been overlooked. He was very concerned for his wife’s well-being. "What kind of place is this, that you cut your staff that does an excellent job...We are the consumers. We deserve to have good staff." He addressed a group of nurses and techs outside the hospital saying, "Until you guys come back, I won't be coming back." He became tearful towards the end of his address, saying that “I am trying to stay strong.”
Staffing was the key issue that motivated the nurses and techs to go on strike. They say the hospital has serious staffing deficiencies that must be addressed in order to ensure safe, quality patient care. Despite this, hospital executives have refused to negotiate over staffing, taking the position that staffing decisions should be made solely by management, without meaningful input from nurses and techs. Numerous studies have shown that improved staffing reduces medical errors, leads to faster recoveries and better patient outcomes, and improves patient satisfaction.
“It’s a disgrace that they’ve cut staffing to the bone and send nurses and techs home from work early when there are sick patients who still need care,” said Peggy Chase, a Medical-Surgical nurse. “We’re not making widgets. We need to be able to properly care for our patients and their families when they are here at their sickest. Prospect doesn’t take patient needs or acuity into consideration when they are cutting staff from our units and failing to staff properly.”
“Prospect just took over this hospital 8 months ago and nurses and techs are already seeing conditions seriously deteriorate,” said Bill Cruice, PASNAP Executive Director. “They’ve just locked out longtime, dedicated employees — which was absolutely unnecessary — and they’re still refusing to negotiate over staffing. This behavior is very troubling, especially since Prospect bought the hospital pledging to make improvements. The Delco community should be skeptical.”
Neopolitano says that she and her coworkers are excited to return to their jobs, but will continue their fight until they settle a fair contract.
“If it was up to us, we would never have been out here. We belong with our patients. But we also owe it to our patients, and to this community, to stand up for what we believe,” she said. “I don’t want my friends and neighbors coming into a hospital that is short-staffed, where nurses are demoralized and burned out and stretched too thin to do their work safely, where we’re sacrificing quality so that the new owner can turn a bigger profit.”
As the lockout officially ends, Friday at 6:30 AM, the nurses and techs will march into the hospital — “our hospital,” they say — together.
“This strike and lockout have brought us together even more,” said Ann Niklauski, a Registered Nurse of 22 years who works in the Perianesthesia Care Unit. “We’re more united than ever, with our coworkers at DCMH and with our community in Delaware County. I think Prospect heard our message and saw the community standing with us.”
Prospect and DCMH management have agreed to return to negotiations with the nurses and techs on March 14th.
“We’re going back to work, but we’re not backing down from from our fight,” said Neopolitano.