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Unionized Pa. health care workers find new bargaining strength in the wake of COVID-19

Jason Laughlin, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

Geisinger spokesperson Matthew Van Stone said the hospital acknowledged the frustrations.

"Many of the challenges the union claims to have solutions for are nationwide issues, and Geisinger is no exception," Van Stone said in a statement, citing efforts to add staff.

COVID-19 workload strains hospital staff

Temple Hospital was ground zero for COVID-19 care in 2020. Patients flooded wards, forcing the hospital to convert a gymnasium and an outpatient pavilion into an overflow COVID-19 ward. Nurses scrambled to care for critically ill people, even as they were afraid for their own health. Vaccines were not yet available, and health care workers were physically and emotionally exhausted.

The pandemic was a tipping point for nurses who felt Temple had been under-staffing units for years, said Adamson. Patient loads stayed high even as COVID-19 cases waned.

"You walk away from the job feeling like we've let these people down," Adamson said.

A Temple spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, but after concluding contract negotiations the hospital's statement described it as, "fair and equitable for all parties" and would improve recruitment and staff retention.

Safety concerns in hospitals

 

Concerns about workplace violence grew after a nursing assistant at nearby Jefferson University Hospital was fatally shot at work in 2021.

Health care providers are among the most likely in the nation to be victims of workplace violence, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

As COVID-19 surges, Philly-area nurses describe life on the front lines: 'It's just exploded'

Carlos Jesus Aviles, an IT specialist and president of Temple Allied Professionals, described workers regularly finding their cars broken into in Temple's parking lots on Broad Street, near some of the city's most violent neighborhoods.

Homeless people have found their way into the hospital and fallen asleep in available beds.

"What's sadly been happening is the environment has slowly but surely been leaking into the hospital," said Aviles, who is pleased that the new contract forces the hospital to increase security in the parking lots.

©2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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