Pennsylvania Auditor General Casey Urges Passage of Bill to Eliminate Mandatory Overt

  1. tuesday october 2, 12:32 pm eastern time
    press release
    source: pa department of auditor general

    pennsylvania auditor general casey urges passage of bill to eliminate mandatory overtime for nurses
    once again calls for strong, decisive action to address health care staffing crisis

    harrisburg, pa., oct. 2 /prnewswire/ -- pennsylvania auditor general robert p. casey, jr. today urged the general assembly to pass legislation sponsored by state senator tina tartaglione (d-2nd district) and representative dan surra (d-75th district) to eliminate mandatory overtime in health care facilities.

    ``this will send a strong message that pennsylvania cares about patient safety, we value our nurses, and we're going to make quality care a priority,'' casey said in a statement read at a rally in the state capitol sponsored by the service employees international union/district 1199p.

    ``mandatory overtime and the staffing shortages that have prompted it are running health care workers ragged, destroying their morale, and putting patients at risk,'' casey said. ``forcing nurses and nurses' aides to work beyond their regularly-scheduled shifts diminishes their physical and mental capacity to provide treatments, perform procedures, and even make life-and-death decisions.''

    casey said providers who use mandatory overtime as a way to deal with staff shortages exacerbate staff retention problems.

    ``it's not just mandatory overtime that's driving nurses and nurses' aides away. it's deplorable pay, unsafe patient-staff ratios, inadequate training, and a lack of career advancement opportunities.''

    casey once again called for strong, decisive action to address the staffing crisis facing health care and long-term care facilities.

    ``the quality of care in our hospitals and long-term care facilities is a reflection of who we are as a people, and what we value as a commonwealth.''

    casey's complete statement from the seiu/district 1199p rally for quality care follows:


    i am grateful for the opportunity to once again lend my support to the dedicated health professionals who work every day to improve the quality of patient care in pennsylvania. the time has long passed for the general assembly to enact legislation to end mandatory overtime for health care workers.

    as all of you know from your own experience, mandatory overtime and the staffing shortages that have prompted it are running health care workers ragged, destroying their morale, and putting patients at risk. forcing nurses and nurses' aides to work beyond their regularly-scheduled shifts diminishes their physical and mental capacity to provide treatments, perform procedures, and even make life-and-death decisions.

    providers who use mandatory overtime as a way to deal with staff shortages exacerbate staff retention problems. the inflexible and burdensome hours that nurses are forced to work are discouraging young people from becoming nurses and forcing others -- including those who have spent years becoming certified -- to quit. by one estimate, only 75% of pennsylvania's 165,000 registered nurses are actually working in their chosen profession -- the lowest rate in the nation. every year, the number of rns in pennsylvania leaving the profession increases. over the next five years, there will be 4,000 nursing vacancies in pennsylvania.

    the problem is staggering -- and only getting worse.

    it's not just mandatory overtime that's driving nurses and
    nurses' aides away. it's deplorable pay, unsafe patient-staff
    ratios, inadequate training, and a lack of career advancement
    opportunities.

    as the problem deepens, the need increases. the number of pennsylvanians age 85 and over is projected to increase by about 28 percent, or another 65,000 people, by the end of the decade. the number of disabled pennsylvanians over the age of 65 will also increase about 28 percent, or another 200,000 people, over the next five years.
    we are on a collision course.

    the only way to address this crisis is to take strong, decisive action. first and foremost, we need to raise the level of professionalism by increasing wages for registered nurses, lpns, nurses' aides and other frontline workers who provide direct care to the sick, elderly and disabled. it's imperative for labor and management to come together to find ways to enhance salaries and working conditions.

    we should also require health care providers to establish "career ladders" so that nurses' aides can move up in the profession and become registered nurses and lpns. the state should help in building these career ladders by offering student loan forgiveness for graduating nurses who agree to work in communities with the greatest need.

    in addition, hospitals, nursing homes and other providers should establish formal partnerships with local community colleges and we should dedicate state and federal job training funds for that purpose. if the commonwealth identifies a critical need for well-trained people, like nurses, nurses' aides and resident care aides, then state funding should drive the creation of education and training programs to fill those gaps.

    for example, over 60 percent of new nursing graduates are coming out of two-year associate degree programs, many of which are provided by community colleges. we should not be restricted by the full-time equivalent reimbursement system which reimburses community colleges based upon the number of students enrolled, rather than the critical need for certain programs.

    there are many other ideas which need to be considered as we move forward, but let's remember one thing: the quality of care in our hospitals and long-term care facilities is a reflection of who we are as a people, and what we value as a commonwealth.

    it seems that many people in this debate have forgotten what
    nursing is all about. a recent front-page story in the patriot-news under the headline, "critical condition," reported that nurses feel that staffing shortages "rob them of the time to give hands-on, bedside assistance or consoling, friendly conversation -- some of the things that drew them to nursing in the first place."

    one comment that really struck me came from colleen swisher, an intensive care nurse at holy spirit hospital in harrisburg. she said, "the treatments may be given. the bandages may be changed. but, when [patients] are in pain, or they are anxious, or they are emotionally distraught ... if somebody can't be there, they aren't getting the care they deserve. and that happens all the time."

    just think about her words: "that happens all the time."
    is this the best that we can do?
    is this who we are as a people?
    is this what we value as a commonwealth?

    i urge the general assembly to pass the legislation introduced by senator tina tartaglione and representative dan surra. this will send a strong message that pennsylvania cares about patient safety, we value our nurses, and we're going to make quality care a priority.

    i thank all of you for the work that you do every day. i remain committed to working with you to make our health care and long-term care systems the very best in the country.
    source: pa department of auditor general

    i was at the mot rally in may and heard auditor casey speak similar words. he is a strong supporter of nursing , having been at this father's side, former gov. robert casey when he received a liver transplant several years ago, and when he died last year. auditor casey will be running for governor in the next election.
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Oct 27, '01
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Pennsylvania Auditor General Casey Urges Passage of Bill to Eliminate Mandatory Overt