While a flood of complaints have been made about Temple University Hospital since 1,500 nurses and allied workers began a strike on March 31, it doesn't appear as if a whole lot can be done to remedy the situation. Not only is the strike nowhere close to being settled--with no new negotiating sessions scheduled according to the Philadelphia Inquirer--but federal regulations have also forced a delay in the reporting of any investigative findings.
Stacy Mitchell, the Pennsylvania Department of Health's deputy secretary for quality assurance, told the Inquirer that once the health department writes a statement of deficiency following a complaint, which it has 10 days to accomplish, the hospital must then write a plan to correct that deficiency, for which it also receives 10 days. Bargaining between the two sides and posting the plan can extend the process out to between 45 and 60 days, in all, she said.
"We have to treat Temple the way that we treat all other hospitals, and I can't single them out because of their current situation," Mitchell added.
Morton Hospital and Medical Center in Taunton, Mass., meanwhile, avoided a similar mess after a tentative agreement was reached on a three-year contract between hospital brass and the nurses union. Prior to the agreement, the nurses union had set a date of April 28 to vote on a strike after six months of negotiations.
Two of the bigger issues that ultimately were resolved involved the hospital's mandatory overtime policy and an attempt by management to replace the current pension system. Now, nurses and health professionals cannot work for more than 12 hours consecutively, and overtime will only be required of employees twice every four months.
As for the pension system, management's attempt to replace it with a "defined contribution 403(b)" was shot down. That particular issue, however, could be revisited next year depending on the financial status of the hospital.
"Our committee is recommending that this is a good agreement," said Joyce Wilkins, a nurse who also chairs the Massachusetts Nurses Association's local bargaining unit, according to The Herald News. "I am very proud of the commitment and dedication of the nurses and health professionals at Morton Hospital."