The day before their previous contract was set to expire, unionized registered nurses
and healthcare professionals at Temple Hospital ratified an agreement with hospital administrators that granted sufficient healthcare, better wages and more control over the amount of patients they work with.
Nearly 1,000 unionized registered nurses and about 500 professional healthcare workers represented by Temple University Hospital Nurses Association settled on a three-year contract Sept. 29, canceling plans to pursue a hospital walkout that had been scheduled for Oct. 2.
Maureen May, president of TUHNA, said she was pleased with the results.
“We’re thrilled really,” said May, a registered nurse at Temple Hospital for 25 years. “It helps us to sound the alarm to help send a message out there. We fight everyday for that.”
Initially, TUHNA wanted to negotiate a four to one patient-to-nurse ratio after studies conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing in 2002 proved that lower patient-to-nurse ratios decreased the risk of patient death and increased hospital safety.
“That’s our number one issue,” May said. “It’s important for patients. You don’t want to have a constant turnover of nurses. It’s costly and doesn’t promote good care or safety.”
In a statement released to the press Sept. 30, Joseph W. Marshall III, chairman and CEO of Temple University Health System, expressed his gratitude on the timeliness of the negotiations.
“We are pleased that the timely resolution
of these contracts will permit our caregivers to continue to provide safe, quality care to patients in an uninterrupted fashion,” he said.
Currently, Temple Hospital houses a little over 30,000 inpatients a year. With more than 1,000 registered nurses in the bargaining unit, the excessive overtime and patient juggling was beginning to become unbearable.
On Sept. 25, several hundred nurses rallied
in front of the hospital to express their dissatisfaction with their working conditions and unanimously voted to set a strike date if the new agreement didn’t consent to their requests.
“The nurses were prepared to walk out because they know how important this is,” May said. “The reason that they organize is because they want to try to change the conditions.”
The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, which represents the TUHNA, are currently pushing for state legislation that would limit mandatory overtime for registered nurses and establish firm patient-to-nurse ratios on a statewide level.
Presently, California is the only state to have passed such laws.
Maya Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.