500 St. Christopher’s Nurses Unionize, Citing Safety Concerns

1,700 nurses at three hospitals unionized in the past few weeks.

St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

For the third time in the past month, a large group of nurses voted to join the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) union — and said safety concerns at hospitals were a big reason why.

This time it was 500 nurses at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. They join more than 1,200 others from Hahnemann University Hospital and Delaware County Memorial Hospital who voted to unionize in January.

At St. Christopher’s — which is owned by Tenet Healthcare, the same company that owns Hahnemann — nurses say patient care is deteriorating and expressed concerns over staffing, equipment and protocols.

“We’re working with less and less, and we’re losing fantastic team members,” said Maria Plano, a registered nurse in St. Christopher’s Special Care Unit. “It affects quality of care, and it hurts nurses and patients. We’re coming together through the union because we want to be advocates for safe care and a good environment in the hospital.”  

At St. Christopher’s, final vote was 311 to 49 in favor of unionization. That’s an 86 percent majority.

Maureen Nolen, a registered nurse, said it’s important that kids get the best care possible.

“It’s not just about nurses. This is about the safety of kids,” she said. “I love my job and I love the kids and their families. I want to continue working at St. Chris for a long time. Joining PASNAP lets us have a voice so we can make it a better place for everyone.”

Since its inception in 2000, PASNAP has gone from relative unknown to power broker in nursing contracts for a membership that now sits at approximately 6,900. Patricia Eakin, president of PASNAP and a registered nurse at Temple University Hospital said in a January interview that nurses are fed up with poor working conditions, subpar equipment, ineffective scheduling and inadequate staffing.

“The main reason nurses call us is because they think they can’t do their jobs safely. They don’t really talk about money,” said Eakin. ” They want to know if there’s hope to improve their working environment.”

St. Christopher’s released a statement stating: “We respect this decision by our nurses, and in the coming days, we will begin working with PASNAP leadership to reach a mutually beneficial collective bargaining agreement. As we move through this process our focus remains, as it always has been, to provide high-quality, patient-centered care to those we serve.”

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