Caregivers at Warren General Hospital reach deal just before strike

Western PA News

WARREN — On Wednesday, the Warren General Hospital Professional Employees Association ratified their agreement with the hospital to avoid a possible strike.

The new agreement will directly address the concerns of 114 nurses and healthcare professionals over staffing issues that would have resulted in a massive walkout.

“A year and a half into the pandemic, the system that’s supposed to support bedside caregivers, and therefore patients, is in crisis,” says President Maureen May, R.N, of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP). “Our workloads have shot through the roof while staff numbers have dwindled due to burnout and short-sighted, bottom-line decisions. This contract, with its emphasis on safe staffing, prioritizes excellence in patient care as well as the health and well-being of frontline caregivers. We are thrilled.”

The new contract strengthens staffing at Warren General by requiring the hospital to address short staffing on a unit due to increased patient acuity and increased census, among other reasons. These measure include:

  • Assigning a float nurse, if available
  • Pulling available qualified staff from other units
  • Seeking volunteers among nurses who have expressed an interest in picking up shifts
  • Calling casual nurses to work. A casual nurse is one not regularly scheduled to work and is employed under an arrangement whereby the person may elect to work or not when requested to do so.
  • Having supervisors work and assist
  • Adding ancillary resources

“The contract we negotiated is a step in the right direction for our patients’ well being,” says maternity unit nurse Charlene Fohrd, R.N., an eight-year Warren General Hospital veteran and co-president of the Warren General Hospital Professional Employees Association. “We were able to build a framework for safer staffing and a better plan for staff recruitment and retention. Our first concern is always our patients and we’re grateful to the community for supporting us in this effort.” 

In addition to staffing guidelines, the caregiver’s new contract includes two measures to strengthen nurse retention and help attract additional staff to the hospital:

  • Enhanced retirement:
    • Those in the pension plan can keep an additional contribution from the hospital until Sept. 30, 2024. The hospital will match 75 percent of up to 9.5 percent of employee contributions to the 401K, an increase from the current rate of six percent of contributions. 
  • Increased wages:
    • Nurses will see an average pay increase of 4.5 percent in year 1, and 3 percent in the second and third years of the contract, with some staff seeing over 17 percent increases in salary over three years. 

According to PASNAP, both actions will improve staffing and the quality of patient care.

PASNAP represents more than 9,000 nurses and healthcare professionals across the Commonwealth. The Warren General Hospital Professional Employees Association is a local representative of PASNAP.

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