POTTSTOWN – The shortage of nurses at Pottstown Hospital has reduced staff so much that it is creating “dangerous conditions” there, unionized nurses told a press conference on Thursday.
And the labor shortage isn’t just about nurses, said Lori Domin, president of Pottstown Nurses United. The hospital also lacks adequate catering or transport staff, forcing highly trained nurses to perform these tasks as well, she said.
With some nurses treating up to nine patients at a time, the time spent doing non-nursing duties makes the job even more overwhelming, they said.
âYou don’t need a degree to take a patient for an x-ray,â Domin said. “We just want to come in and do our job, not everyone’s job.”
Part of the problem is a national shortage of nurses, the union acknowledged, in part because of increasing demands on staff by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, enrollment in RN programs in Pennsylvania has increased by nearly 50% over the past few decades, “but hospitals cannot retain bedside nurses under conditions of increasingly exhausting and dangerous, âa union statement said.
The release said there were 30,600 more registered nurses not working in nursing in Pennsylvania in 2020 than in 2015.
âThey have lost 70 nurses in the past year and they have not been replaced,â said nurse Kathy Bogus.
The industry standard is one nurse for every five patients, but at Pottstown Hospital that has steadily increased to seven or eight, including in the intensive care unit, said Domin, who has been a nurse since. 34 years old.
Berks County-based Tower Health, which owns and operates Pottstown Hospital, did not respond to a request for comment until press time.
Hospital management prepares a nursing schedule “that looks good on paper, but we exceed that nurse-to-patient ratio on a daily basis,” Domin said.
âAlmost every day I’m on leave I get a text asking ‘can you work tonight? “” said Sue Lobello, a nurse for 11 years. “But we’re all so exhausted, we can’t give more, that’s when mistakes happen.”
“The operating theater is currently open with five nurses but it should have 10,” said Jerry Silverman, union negotiator for the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, which hosted the press conference in Pottstown and elsewhere. hospitals in the region.
âThese nurses work 16 to 18 hours a day and there are poor results,â Silverman said.
With fewer nurses monitoring too many patients, a patient may try to go to the bathroom unaided and fall; or getting the sheets dirty, which then means the bed needs to be changed and may increase the possibility of developing pressure sores, nurses said.
âI saw people who said I didn’t come to the hospital with this problem, but I’m leaving with it,â said nurse Dana Moyer.
The shortages also have an impact on the nurses themselves.
With more patients to watch, they may not be as attentive to individuals, often resulting in patient complaints and ratings of nurses’ work are largely based on patient satisfaction, Bogus said.
âIt’s disheartening because it’s based on something we can’t control,â she said.
âThe hospital is hiring but the nurses don’t stay – the workload pushes them back,â Domin said.
State Representative Joe Ciresi, D-146th Dist., Was on hand Wednesday to support the nurses and said he feared they were suffering from burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder.
âAnd that also has an impact on the overall quality of care for this community,â Ciresi said. âI have heard this for three years that I have been in office.
Nurses are required to complete staff shortage forms whenever there are not enough nurses on a floor for a given shift and “last month they filed 30, one for each. day of the month, âSilverman said.
According to the nurses, the head nurse of the hospital “asked the nurses’ union how the hospital should deal with the staff crisis during a nationwide nurse shortage” and on August 19, the union provided six suggestions, none of which elicited a response. .
The main one was to cap the number of patients admitted so as not to overwhelm the nursing staff and to allow the safety ratio to be maintained.
It would also involve limiting elective procedures to ensure that there are enough nurses for those without an option.
âBut they don’t want to limit patients because they mean less money,â Lobello said.
Another suggestion was to bring in nurses from private agencies or offer bonuses to new hires, but again Tower doesn’t want to spend the money, the nurses said.
âWhen Tower first arrived, they increased the staff, but they overstepped the line and ran into issues,â said Silverman. “They started to downsize to protect the mothership and their salaries were not competitive for recruiting.”
The current contract with the nurses’ union expires on October 8 and the bargaining session that followed Thursday’s press conference was only the second session, Silverman said.
The nurses hope that some of their suggestions for increasing safety and reducing their workload can be reinforced in a new contract.
âThe truth is that a staff shortage quickly leads to nurse burnout and, as a result, a staff shortage. It’s a spiral, âDomin said.
The union held similar simultaneous protests against similar conditions on Thursday at hospitals on two campuses of Temple University Hospital, Crozier-Chester Medical Center and Albert Einstein Medical Center.
âEvery day for many months, we have worked with fewer nurses than the staffing grids provided in our contract,â said Peg Lawson, RN, longtime nurse in the emergency department at Albert Einstein Medical Center, in a press release issued by the union on Thursday. afternoon.
Management’s reluctance to create an environment that encourages nurse retention at Einstein has created an unsustainable situation inside the hospital and has resulted in around 20% nurse turnover this year, the statement said.
Nurses across the Commonwealth are following Thursday’s day of action by meeting in Harrisburg on Tuesday, September 28 to urge their lawmakers to pass the Patient Safety Act, which would impose nurse-to-patient ratios, based on the patient acuity at all hospitals in Pennsylvania.
Currently, California is the only state to have these ratios enshrined in law.