Pennsylvania hospital nurses staging 5-day strike

More than 200 nurses at Armstrong County Memorial Hospital in Kittanning, Pa., began a five-day strike March 13, representing the first strike at the hospital in more than two decades, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The nurses, who are represented by ACMH Nurses United, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, cited concerns about staffing and called on hospital management to invest in effective nurse recruitment.

"As nurses, our first priority is always excellent patient care, and to provide it, we cannot be assigned too many patients at once," Sandra Harrison, RN, an operating room nurse who has been at the hospital 39 years, said in a union news release shared with Becker's. "Before the pandemic, inadequate staffing was already a problem, but during the pandemic, the situation became critical. Nurses' suggestions and concerns have been ignored by management. Our patients, our community, and the nurses deserve better."

Nurses at Armstrong County Memorial have been in contract negotiations since July 2021. On Jan. 26, the nurses voted to authorize a strike, which allowed the bargaining committee to issue a 10-day strike notice, if necessary. The union issued a strike notice March 2 and plans to strike through March 17.

In a statement shared with Becker's, the hospital defended its staffing.

"The hospital and … union have had patient-nurse staffing guidelines in the labor agreement for a number of years," the statement said. "ACMH frequently operates with staffing in excess of these guidelines. Additionally, the Union did not propose any changes to the staffing guidelines during the negotiations. Nationally, and similar to most Pennsylvania hospitals, ACMH has nursing vacancies, and to ensure that our patients are given quality care we have done what many hospitals are being forced to do, and that is to utilize nursing staffing agencies."

Regarding bringing top workforce talent to the organization, the hospital said it "recognized the importance of recruiting" and "presented the most lucrative and aggressive wage proposal in its history" more than four months ago.  


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