About 370 nurses and medical technicians at Delaware County Memorial Hospital spent Monday on strike in the second day of a planned two-day job action. Negotiations between the hospital and the union representing staff broke down after a year of talks.
Staffing has been a sticking point for her in the negotiations, said Mary Ludwig, a nurse at Delaware County Memorial Hospital for nearly 25 years. After the hospital was taken over by a new company, Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc., in July, she said, staffing numbers have gone down.
“Nurses are being overworked,” Ludwig said. “We don’t even have time to get a lunch break. Patients are still getting good care, but it’s much harder for the nurse. It’s very frustrating because we have to go the extra mile, and we are just getting no support from management.”
Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals executive director Bill Cruice said, “Basically, the nurses are proposing that, in essence, the staffing return to a safer level that existed prior to their acquisition.
“And, as importantly, to create a vehicle to be able to discuss staffing conditions and staffing levels on an ongoing basis.”
But Eileen Young, chief nursing officer for hospital owner Crozer Keystone Health System, said that’s inaccurate.
“Our staffing levels haven’t changed,” Young said. “We still look at them in the same way and as often. And we look at the number of patients and the acuity of our patients and adjust our staffing multiple times a day based on that.
“Prospect has not said to me I need to change the patterns of how I staff the hospital.”
Young said salary and benefits are the roadblocks to a contract settlement.
The hospital unionized early last year, and this is the fist contract negotiation.
“It is unusual for nurses in a first contract negotiation to actually get to the point where they’re pushed to go on strike,” Cruice said.
The hospital hired outside nurses to replace striking staff. Young said the strike has been expensive for the hospital but all units are operating normally. The outside agency requires five days of employment, so striking nurses won’t return to work until Friday, even though the two-day strike ended Monday.