Hospital Picketers Allege ‘Safety’ Issues Exist

POTTSTOWN PA – Pottstown Hospital nursing employees took to the street Tuesday (May 8, 2018; above and below), and conducted an informational picket at the southeast corner of East High Street and Armand Hammer Boulevard, over what they claimed amounted to unsafe staffing levels in the medical care facility bought last year by Reading PA-based Tower Health.

The unionized workers, represented by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, charged that hospital practices were forcing nurses to care for too many patients during a shift, and that on-call policies for some of its professionals caused them to lose sleep. “We want Pottstown Hospital to know we will not back down when it comes to safe staffing,” hospital 6th floor nurse Lori Domin said in a statement. “Tower Health must put resources where they belong, so that patients will receive the care they deserve.

The picketing also referred, in part, to what nurses see as a lack of progress during months of negotiations over a labor agreement. The association statement asserted “the past eight months of negotiations with Tower Health have been negatively impacted” by what they said were National Labor Relations Act violations, although it did not offer details or cite any charges upheld by the National Labor Relations Board.

“We are negotiating in good faith with (the association), and are committed to developing work policies, procedures, and practices that apply equitably to all our employees, and that give them the tools needed to provide the best possible care,” hospital spokesperson Debra L. Bennis replied.

Regarding the picket itself, Bennis added, “the management of Pottstown Hospital and Tower Health respects the right of our employees to join unions and to engage in the type of activity taking place today at Pottstown Hospital. The informational picketing is not impacting patient care in any way. All hospitals departments and nursing units are staffed as usual, and all our services at Pottstown Hospital and the physician offices on the Pottstown campus are operating normally. The nurses engaged in the picketing are doing so on their own time.”

Picketers did their best to attract as much attention to the corner as possible. They carried signs, marched along the sidewalk, sang and chanted, and implored passing drivers who agreed with their opinions of the hospital to honk their horns. Several did. The hospital had members of its security staff stationed at entrances to some buildings and parking lots, but well away from the protesters. When the picket ended after several hours, many of those who walked the line had dinner at Gatsby’s Restaurant across the street.

The union said it represents more than 8,000 bedside nurses and health care professionals throughout the state.

Photos by The Post Publications