KINGSTON — Registered nurses at First Hospital in Kingston and Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton announced Friday they are planning a one-day strike at both hospitals on Wednesday, April 25.
The announcement comes after months of negotiations that the nurses say have failed to yield any meaningful progress on important issues with low staffing, floating of nurses between units, on-call protocols, training and safety.
Mental health technicians and other workers at First Hospital will also strike on April 25 to protest the company’s illegal implementation of its final contract offer, they said in a statement.
Both hospitals are owned by Community Health Systems (CHS), a Tennessee-based, for-profit company that has purchased several Northeast Pennsylvania hospitals in recent years. All of the nurses and other striking workers are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
CHS on Friday responded by releasing a statement on behalf of Clayton Nottelmann, chief human resources officer at First Hospital, and Elizabeth Leo, chief human resources officer at Moses Taylor Hospital:
“The SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania has served a notice of its intent to conduct a one-day strike, picketing and other concerted refusal to work activity on Wednesday, April 25,” Nottelmann and Leo wrote.
“A contingency operations plan will be implemented, in the event the strike does occur, to ensure continuation of quality services. As always, our top priority is the care and safety of our patients, employees and visitors wherever such activity may occur,” they added.
A chief concern among the hospital workers participating in the strike is staffing, and the practice of “pulling” — where managers will reassign an employee from his or her normal unit, to a different area of the hospital, frequently one they are unfamiliar with and housing different kinds of patients than they are accustomed to.
“None of us want to strike, but we have to stand up to CHS. Their profits-over-patients approach to health care isn’t just bad for us, it’s bad for Northeast Pennsylvania,” said Micah Carpenter, a patient care coordinator and former mental health technician at First Hospital. “Pulling staff from unit to unit raises serious concerns about patient care, and is a shell game to hide the staffing crisis in our hospitals.”
Catherine Cooney, a registered nurse at Moses Taylor Hospital, said: “As a labor and delivery nurse, I cringe every time I get pulled to another floor of the hospital. On other units, we are exposed to all sorts of germs and it’s inevitable that some of them come back to labor and delivery with us. It’s an unnecessary risk that no new family should be exposed to.”
The current contracts for all three groups of workers expired last year, and no deals have been struck despite having more than a dozen negotiation sessions. There is one more session scheduled for Moses Taylor on April 18.
“Our hope is that management will come back to the table on April 18 ready to address these staffing issues at the hospital. If they would work with us on that, we might be able to avoid a strike,” said Jen Kamla, a registered nurse in the operating room at Moses Taylor. “Without agreement on better staffing, however, we’re ready to do whatever it takes to improve the quality of care for our patients.”