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Nurses at Pocono Medical Center avoid strike, agree on three-year contract

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Pocono Medical Center in Stroudsburg (File photo)
Pocono Medical Center in Stroudsburg (File photo)

Hundreds of Registered Nurses at Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg have a new three-year contract that took effect on Sunday.

Jersey Nurses Economic Security Organization District Council 1, the professional health care union representing nurses at PMC, announced Friday that a tentative agreement has been ratified on a contract that covers about 500 Registered Nurses in the health network.

On Jan. 20, JNESO served PMC with a 10-day strike notice after eight weeks of bargaining with the hospital, Barbara Conklin, JNESO’s director of practice and labor representatives, said this morning.

The union agreed to bargain with PMC every day until the previous contract’s Jan. 31 expiration when PMC declined to address staffing levels and patient safety concerns raised by the union – and in response to an investigation by the Department of Health relating to staffing at PMC, Conklin said.

“The Department of Health confirmed that Pocono Medical Center took immediate action to remedy the staffing issues and is in full compliance with their guidelines,” Geoffrey Roche, PMC’s director, community/government relations, said this morning.

“We would also like to make very clear that there were no quality or patient safety issues and in fact, this was confirmed by the Department of Health during their onsite review,” Roche said. “Pocono Medical Center's leadership team continuously reviews staffing and makes adjustments to address the ever-changing needs of our patients.”

The contract extends through Jan. 31, 2018.

“We have reached an agreement that is fair and in the best interests of our patients, employees and community,” Roche said.

According to Conklin, nurses at PMC have documented instances of short staffing and lack of resources, with 545 instances where nurses believed that they could not deliver excellent care because of understaffing. On the staffing discrepancy forms, nurses reported sometimes being without any support staff or resources [like someone to answer the phone, transport patients or strip the beds], decreasing the ability for critical observation of patients.

“Patient safety was our No. 1 concern going into negotiations,” Conklin said. “Non-nursing functions and understaffing were taking critical observations away from patients.”

In the new contract, PMC has agreed to increase staffing in the emergency rooms, as well as agreeing to review staffing in the telemetry units and medical surgical units, she said.

“JNESO meets with PMC monthly, and we will hold them accountable to their agreements, and document staffing ratios, and report it to the Department of Health when necessary,” Conklin said.

Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg is the main hospital in the Pocono Health System, which has 20 family care and outpatient locations, more than 200 physicians and 1,850 staff members. The hospital is one of Monroe County’s oldest and largest employers.

JNESO District Council 1 represents more than 5,000 health care professionals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is an affiliate of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

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Jennifer Glose

Jennifer Glose

Reporter Jennifer Glose covers health care, Berks County and other topics. She can be reached at jenniferg@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 111. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferg_LVB and read her blog, “Networking,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/networking-blog.

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