PA Nurses lobby for the Patient Safety Act in Harrisburg

Anna Carlin, a nurse from the Philadelphia area and local PASNAP leader, speaking at a Patient Safety Act Rally on the Pennsylvania Capitol Steps on Oct. 24, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

October 25, 2023

Nurses from across Pennsylvania gathered in Harrisburg on Tuesday for a rally and lobby day for the Patient Safety Act. Nurses met with their state senators, asking for a vote on the popular, bipartisan bill.

It’s been well over 100 days since the Pennsylvania House passed the Patient Safety Act and sent House Bill 106 to the Senate for approval, and yet, the Senate has yet to hold a hearing on the bill.

That inaction prompted nurses from across Pennsylvania to gather in Harrisburg on Tuesday for a rally and lobby day for the bill, which would establish safe staffing ratios for nurses based on the departments or wings they work in.

The legislation passed the House at the end of June with widespread bipartisan support by a 119 to 84 margin. Nineteen Republicans crossed the aisle and voted for HB 106. 

“Now it’s time for the Senate to follow suit,” said Denelle Korin, a nurse and member with the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania (SEIU HCPA). “That’s why we’re here today to call on the state Senate to also take action and recognize the nursing shortage crisis happening right before our eyes.”

Korin hosted the  rally on the Pennsylvania Capitol steps with a few dozen nurses from the Nurses Alliance of Pennsylvania. The coalition is made up of union nurses from SEIU HCPA, the Pennsylvania Association of Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), and non-union nurses from across the commonwealth. 

Nurses from across the state traveled to Harrisburg to meet with their state senators and advocate for the bill’s passage. Their latest trip to Harrisburg feels like an all too familiar part of the process, since they have been advocating for some version of safe staffing ratios for over two decades.

In her remarks, Korin shared the experiences nurses have encountered over the decades. 

“The status quo is failing everybody. Pennsylvania’s patients, bedside nurses and communities are not able to receive the quality care we need,” she said.“Nurses continue to face moral injury, exhaustion, burnout, and are leaving the bedside or are leaving the nursing profession altogether because we don’t feel safe practicing this way.” 

Hospitals and their trade associations oppose safe staffing ratios because they believe implementing ratios could close down hospitals. Anna Carlin, who is a nurse and local PASNAP leader, called those arguments “scare tactics” and pointed to California’s success.

“California has 336 hospitals and has had minimum nurse staffing ratios for 20 years in emergency departments in large urban medical centers and in small rural hospitals,” Carlin said. “Not a single hospital, large or small has closed because of those ratios, not a single one.”

State Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery) who is a former nurse and the primary sponsor of the Patient Safety Act in the Senate, spoke in support of the nurses on Tuesday and urged the Senate to take up the bill. 

“I know just how devastating outcomes can be when staffing is inadequate. For each additional patient in a nurse’s workload, the risk of medication errors, readmission rates, and even death all increase,” said Collett. 

“Staffing is also a top contributor to job dissatisfaction among Pennsylvania nurses, leading to burnout and causing experienced compassionate professionals to leave nursing altogether,” Collett added. “The Patient Safety Act is key to retaining and recruiting the skilled staff.”

 

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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