Temple Hospital contracts signal new strength for health care workers in the wake of COVID

Temple University’s unionized health care workers won a new contract this month that gives its nurses the highest wages in Pennsylvania, while reducing their patient load and increasing security to make them feel safer while working at the Philadelphia hospital.

Other organized health care workers in the state are now trying to replicate his workbook.

“Temple has been wonderful for us,” said Carla LeCoin, a neonatal nurse and labor leader for 900 nurses preparing for contract negotiations in 2023 at Einstein Healthcare Network, which was acquired by Thomas Jefferson University in 2021. They have been our elder sisters. , as our masters we are unionized.

Temple’s new three-year contract, approved on the night of 8 November midterm elections show how The health care worker movement has emerged from the pandemic active and aggressive.

Enabled by the high demand for nurses and the shortage of staff The union representing temple nurses and technical workers played hardball — even voting to authorize the strike — to win long-desired concessions.

The new contract requires the hospital to add one more nurse to a unit when certain patient census limits are exceeded. If a hospital cannot meet staffing standards, the hospital must pay nurses significant additional pay, and the standards can only be ignored if both hospital administration and union representatives agree to warrant a health emergency.

Given said the staffing requirements were particularly strong.

The temple also agreed to have weapon detectors and security personnel. at each hospital entrance, and re-tool the way workplace violence incidents are reviewed so that victims’ voices are heard.

Rebecca Collins Givhan, an associate professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, said today’s tight labor market helped Temple’s health care union to the bargaining table.

“All of those factors have motivated nurses to be serious about their demands in taking collective action,” she said.

Nurses are in great demand, Giwan said, and have no trouble finding other health care jobs to pay the bills if the contract dispute turns into a strike, as has been threatened at Temple.

The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals and SEIU are the two largest unions of nurses in the state, representing a total of about 17,400 registered nurses. There are approximately 238,000 active, licensed registered nurses in the state.

» Read more: On the coronavirus front lines, Philly nurses also grapple with supply shortages and tensions with employers

The pandemic has exacerbated issues of long-term workers in health care, triggering a wave of resignations and retirements that have strained an already thin workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 275,000 additional nurses will be needed between 2020 and 2030.

A March survey by the American Nurses Foundation found that 60% of acute care nurses were burned out, and 75% described themselves as “stressed, frustrated and exhausted.”

“Nurses had very low morale,” said Mary Adamson, president of the Temple University Hospital Nurses Association. “They were too angry to go on this campaign.”

The same sentiment is driving a unionization campaign at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. Mike Kiasco, a physical therapist, is in the process of organizing 350 hospital technicians, including rehabilitation workers, radiology technicians and pharmacists.

Before the pandemic, he said, similar efforts failed. This year has been different.

“I feel like the last few years of everyone seeing everything in their workday is leading people to question: Why are we accepting this?” Keyasco said.

Matthew Van Stone, a spokesman for Geisinger, said the hospital acknowledged the disappointments.

“Many of the challenges the union claims to address are nationwide issues, and Geisinger is no exception,” Van Stone said in a statement, citing efforts to engage employees.

Temple Hospital was ground zero for Covid care in 2020. Patients’ wards were flooded, forcing the hospital to convert gymnasiums and an outpatient pavilion into overflowing Covid wards. Nurses scrambled to care for the seriously ill, even as they feared for their own health. Vaccines were not yet available, and health care workers were physically and emotionally exhausted.

The pandemic was a tipping point for nurses who felt Adamson said the temple had been short of staff for years. Despite the reduction in Covid cases, the number of patients remained high.

Adamson said, “You walk away with a job feeling like we let these guys down.”

A Temple spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, but the hospital’s statement following the conclusion of contract negotiations called it “fair and equitable to all parties” and made improvements in recruiting and retaining staff.

Concerns About Workplace Violence Rise After A Nursing Assistant Near Me was fatally shot while at work in 2021 at Jefferson University Hospital.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, health care providers are the most likely victims of workplace violence in the country.

» Read more: As COVID-19 rises, Philly-area nurses describe life on the front lines: ‘It just exploded’

Carlos Jesus Aviles, an IT specialist and president of Temple Allied Professionals, said workers regularly find their cars broken into in Temple’s parking lot on Broad Street, near some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods.

Homeless people have found their way into the hospital and slept in the available beds.

“The sad thing is that the environment is slowly but surely leaking into the hospital,” Aviles said. Security will be increased in the hospital parking lot.

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