Nurses and Techs at Delaware County Memorial Hospital Strike for Safety, Staffing, and Compassion

Photo credit: Kevin Mahoney

Nurses and Technicians at Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Upper Darby walked off the job at 6:45 am on Sunday launching a two-day strike. Pennsylvania Staff Nurses and Affiliated Professionals (PASNAP), the union representing striking nurses and technicians, say that the hospital’s new owners have failed to live up to promises they made to the community when they bought the hospital in July 2016.  The new owners, Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc. Prospect is a for-profit, wholly-owned subsidiary of the private equity firm, Leonard Green & Partners, which also lists BJ’s, Shake Shack, and J. Crew in it’s portfolio. Prospect Medical Holdings has announced it will lock out striking nurses and technicians until at least Friday.

Since Prospect has taken over, PASNAP says that there has been an increase in nurses’ patient load, creating situations that erode the quality of care nurses can provide and putting patient safety at risk. Placards carried by union members on the boisterous picket line read: “Safe Staffing Saves Lives,”  “Patients Before Profits,” and “I Walk the Line So Your Life Isn’t On It!” Chants of “Get Up, Get Down, DelCo is a Union Town!” and “What Do We Want? Safe Staffing! When Do We Want It? Now!,” echoed off the walls of the hospital.

Crystal Williams, who has been a nurse at DCMH for 16 years, told Raging Chicken Press that “the conditions that have been going on here are substandard and they need to stop.” She said “this fight is not about money. It’s about patient safety. It’s about safety for our staff. It’s about care and compassion.”

“I am out here for all of us!,” Angela Neopolitano, a 36-year veteran nurse at DCMH and president of the PASNAP RN Chapter, told the crowd at their afternoon rally. “This is about patient care! We will no longer stand for the antics of Prospect. Our patients come before their profits!”

“I am striking to recreate the quality healthcare organization that has existed at Delaware County for the 26 years I’ve worked there,” said Tammy Christianson, a Haverford Township resident and nurse in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit. “It’s clear that Prospect is using us to squeeze as much money out of staff and patients as they can, with no concern for employees or the community.”

Nurses and technicians have been stonewalled in negotiations since they first formed their union in early 2016. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board decided in favor of PASNAP’s complaint NLRB_Prospect that the former non-profit owners of DCMH had engaged in unfair labor practices by not providing the newly organized union with the “Asset Purchase Agreement” ahead of the sale of DCMH and Crozer-Chester Medical Center to Prospect. Following Prospect’s purchase of DCMH, the company continued to refuse to provide the union with the APA. On February 22, the NLRB ordered Prospect to provide the requested documents to union.

The Prospect owners of DCMH said in a press release regarding the strike, “Crozer-Keystone Health System has been bargaining in good faith with union representatives to establish our first contract with PASNAP. We have been engaged in a thoughtful and sincere negotiating process that has already resulted in significant agreements and we look forward to signing a contract with them. We are disappointed that the Union has taken this action.”

However, multiple union sources say that even with help of a federal mediator, Prospect remains unwilling to address union members concerns about safe staffing levels and the lack of basic equipment needed for patient care.

As PASNAP executive director and chief negotiator Bill Cruice told the Daily Times News:

The union committee Sunday made an attempt to avoid a strike, but clearly Prospect/DCMH management was never interested an agreement…They are taking outrageously unreasonable positions on the remaining open issues and forcing the dedicated staff to reluctantly take this action in order to advocate for their patients and to ensure adequate staffing for the community.

For Crystal Williams and the other nurses and technicians walking the picket line, there cannot be any compromise when it comes to patient care. “We are committed to this fight,” Williams stated. ” We will do whatever is needed to get it done.”

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