Crozer-Chester nurses push for mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios

    As their contracts with Crozer-Chester Medical Center expire Wednesday, 700 nurses at the Chester, Pa., hospital are considering a strike. They have authorized their union to give a 10-day notice of intent to strike if negotiations stall, though they say they will work without a contract if good-faith bargaining efforts extend past the deadline.

    Mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing ratios are at issue. The nurses union wants no more than two patients per nurse in intensive care, and no more than five on a standard surgical unit. The state average is about five and a half patients per nurse.

    “Too often nurses believe they can’t give the care that they believe patients deserve because there’s not enough staff,” said Bill Cruice, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the nurses union. “We’re proposing that Crozer implement the same ratios that exist in law in California, and so far they are resisting that.”

    Hospital spokeswoman Kathy Scullin, with the Crozer-Keystone Health System, said the hospital has already offered to have nurses sit on a staffing committee.

    “We don’t think that nurse-staffing ratios are an appropriate way to determine staffing. Very few hospitals outside of California use nurse-to-patient ratios,” Scullin said. “We determine staffing levels based on how many patients we’re caring for and how sick they are.”

    A University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing study found that if all Pennsylvania hospitals were staffed at the same levels as California hospitals, mortality after common surgical procedures would decrease by 13 percent.

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