Altoona, PA – On May 10th the Registered Nurses of UPMC Altoona held a press conference calling on legislators to move forward with the Patient Safety Act– a bill crafted by nurses in collaboration with political allies, that would set safe patient-to-staff ratios, improving hospital conditions and standards of care for nurses and patients.
Gathering in front of the County Courthouse, nurses urged the Blair County delegation to the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support the Patient Safety Act- and urge Health Committee Chairwoman Representative Kathy Rapp to call a hearing on the Patient Safety Act, then move the bill to a committee vote.
Said Leann Oppel, a registered nurse at UPMC Altoona: “We have the momentum. For the first time, a bipartisan majority of sitting House members have co-sponsored our legislation for safe staffing standards. Very few bills get this much support and it shows that safe staffing for patients and nurses is not a partisan issue.”
UPMC Altoona was hit especially hard by COVID-19, with nurses dealing with high numbers of COVID-19 patients, extreme workloads, and critically low staffing numbers as a result. Just this past weekend, an internal newsletter from one unit in the hospital said that nurses may be assigned eight patients, but acknowledged, “This is not ideal, nor is it safe, but this is a direct order coming from upper management.” It went on to say that, “…refusal to take 8 when asked to may result in an HR trip.”
“These are the facts: Passing the Patient Safety Act will encourage nurses to come back to the bedside. In a recent survey of nurses that have left their jobs in the last two years, nearly half said they were likely to consider working at the bedside if the Patient Safety Act passed compared to only 11% under current conditions,” said Jaime Balsamo, UPMC Registered Nurse. “Anyone that’s worked in our hospital, been a patient, or part of a patients’ support system over the past few years knows we need these nurses back.”
Understaffing in hospitals can have serious adverse consequences for patients. Even pre-pandemic, research shows that for every post-surgical patient a nurse has over four, the risk of a patient dying increased 7%.
“Nurses have worked tirelessly on the frontlines of the pandemic, risking their lives and their families’ health to show up for the Blair County community when they needed us most,” said UPMC Altoona Registered Nurse Abigail Urion. “Now more than ever, it is important for our elected leaders to stand with nurses and our communities to support this life-changing piece of legislation.”
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and healthcare workers, uniting nearly 45,000 nurses, professional and technical employees, direct care workers, and service employees in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home- and community-based services, and state facilities across the Commonwealth. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members are committed to improving the lives of health care workers and ensuring quality care and healthy communities for all Pennsylvanians.