Pennsylvania nurses union claims CHS violated law by forcing nurses to work overtime

The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, which represents nurses at Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) General Hospital, claimed the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry found the hospital and its parent company committed at least 10 violations of a state law prohibiting mandatory overtime for nurses and other healthcare workers, according to The Times-Tribune.

Here are four things to know about the allegations.

1. The PASNAP announced the state labor department's findings in a press release, obtained by The Times-Tribune.

2. According to the organization, Wilkes-Barre General Hospital violated Pennsylvania Act 102, a law passed in 2009 that forbids healthcare facilities from forcing unplanned, unwanted overtime on nurses and other caregivers.

3. Wilkes-Barre and its parent company, Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, allegedly violated the law during a period of two months, from late 2017 into early 2018. The labor department has reportedly been investigating hundreds of incident reports filed by nurses at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, and will reportedly continue its investigation to uncover the full extent of any alleged violations, according to PASNAP.

4. A Wilkes-Barre General Hospital nurse told The Times-Tribune, "It's not right for us to be forced into overtime due to chronic nurse vacancies at the hospital. It's not safe for the patients. You don't want exhausted nurses trying to take care of you 17 hours into their shift after they were supposed to have gone home five hours ago. Mistakes can happen and quality of care goes down."

"CHS is failing to hire, retain and schedule the number of nurses we need to care effectively for our patients, then mandating nurses to stay when the constant understaffing reaches a breaking point. When you provide a sufficient number of nurses to ensure proper care, you don't need to force someone to stay," the nurse continued.

5. A spokesperson for Wilkes-Barre General Hospital told Becker's Hospital Review via email March 8, "Contrary to PASNAP's assertions, the matter is far from complete. We are working with the Department of Labor in their review of the union's allegations against Commonwealth Health Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. We are confident the thorough documentation we provided proves the hospital's compliance with the law regarding mandatory overtime."

To access The Times-Tribune report, click here.

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