Butler hospital lays off 141 "due to nurses strike"

Nurses Activism


  • Home Health Columnist / Guide
    Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

admissions of children, others curtailed as nurses strike deadline nears

friday, april 05, 2002

by scott deacle, post-gazette staff writer


butler memorial hospital, preparing for a strike wednesday by its nurses, has begun laying off workers and limiting admissions.

as of yesterday morning, the hospital had temporarily laid off 141 workers and denied admission to children as well as to patients requiring certain types of care, hospital spokesman john righetti said.

no patient already in the hospital is being moved, and the number of patients who have been denied admission was unavailable.

to serve patients being turned away, butler memorial is working with united community hospital in grove city and armstrong memorial hospital in kittanning.

if the nurses strike, butler memorial's emergency room will remain open. the hospital also will still provide most outpatient diagnostic services, such as lab work and x-rays, at its main facility and at nine outpatient service sites.

on sunday it stopped admitting specific categories of patients, including new psychiatric patients, patients with severe restrictions and those requiring major abdominal surgery, open-heart procedures and hip and knee replacements. more recently, it began temporarily laying off workers.

righetti blamed the actions on the nurses' union, saying a strike threat wasn't necessary because the two sides had made substantial progress in negotiations.

"it's unfortunate that [the union] chose this drastic route when there [were] still four negotiating sessions to go," righetti said tuesday, before hospital and nurse representatives sat down for the first of four scheduled negotiating sessions.

but nurses said hospital officials resisted their efforts to negotiate early and often. "that's why we felt we need to serve them notice," union president tammy may said, adding that the two sides made significant progress in meetings wednesday and yesterday.

"we feel confident we will reach an agreement in a couple of days," she said.

the 304-member nurses union, which voted 216-13 to authorize the strike, scheduled a rally and march at the hospital for tomorrow.

since affiliating with pennsylvania association of staff nurses and allied professionals, the butler nurses union has become more assertive. after staging public rallies, the nurses reopened negotiations on their contract a year ago and won an average 4.8 percent wage increase that the hospital said would boost their average annual salary from $38,875 to $40,400.

this year's negotiations have centered on staffing issues, though the two sides haven't begun talking about pay and benefits.

the pennsylvania association of staff nurses and allied professionals is an offshoot of the california nurses association, the union that successfully lobbied the california legislature to pass a law mandating nurse-to-patient ratios at hospitals.

the nurse-to-patient ratio at butler memorial averages out to the 1-3 ratio required by california law, righetti said.

butler nurses aren't asking for a specific nurse-to-patient ratio, may said.

but they want to work with management to develop staffing levels that include experienced nurses with new nurses, a demand they say management has resisted.

righetti said the hospital wanted to keep staffing decisions in the hands of physicians.

like other hospitals, butler memorial sometimes sends patients elsewhere because it doesn't have enough nurses. nurses say fewer shortages would exist if nurses had better pay, hours and working conditions. union leaders say the hospital has 44 or 45 openings for registered nurses.

many of those vacancies are for part-time nurses, righetti said. he said the equivalent of 10 full-time nurses have left or retired in the past year and the hospital has hired the equivalent of about 35 full-time nurses in that time.

the issues surrounding the negotiations at butler stem from a national and regional nursing shortage.

many nurses today want more control over their schedules and a voice in deciding how the hospital operates, said rosanne clementi saunders, who owns an independent human resources consulting practice and is an adjunct professor at carnegie mellon university.

"i think what unions have been articulating are not the traditional pay and benefits demands," said saunders, who was once vice president of human resources at heritage valley health system.

righetti said the hospital wanted to keep staffing decisions in the hands of physicians.

when last has nursing staffing been in the hands of physicians...not in the past 30 years i'd guess???


2,709 Posts

well, if the administrators there are physicians, then it still is.

Dont you just love the management tactic of trying to turn others against the nurses: "youre being laid off and its the NURSES fault!"

when everybody knows that the HOSPITAL had the CHOICE to either negotiate or force the nurses to strike. So if there is a strike, its the administrations who caused it & if people are being laid off, its the administrations fault because they are choosing to go for a strike rather than negotiate. All they have to do is negotiate & a strike can be averted.

Another tactic - separate the nurses from their union & present the union to be a third party. Note the hospital's quote that "the Union chose this drastic route". Everybody knows the union isnt some third party - its the nurses who work there. The "union" didnt choose to strike - the nurses VOTED for it - overwhelmingly from the numbers of votes they cast & obviously because the hospital is choosing to not pay attention to their pt safety concerns.

Hopefully the hospital will get the message that this is very serious & will continue to "make progress" in negotiations, reach an agreement & avert the strike before it happens. The ball is in the administrations court & whatever happens next is of their own doing.

Home Health Columnist / Guide


11 Articles; 18,056 Posts

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

By Lawrence Sanata


Sunday, April 7, 2002


President of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professions at Butler Memorial Hospital Nurses at Butler Memorial Hospital are hoping some of the accomplishments made by unionized nurses in California can be duplicated in Butler County.

One of those is the formation of working committees, composed of nurses and representatives of hospital management, to improve patient care and address nurse shortages, said Tammy May, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professions at the hospital.

"I think we can work together (here) to make improvements for everybody," she said. "I think there are so many improvements that health care needs."

Nurses at Butler Memorial have been negotiating with hospital officials since January. The existing nurses' contract expires at midnight Tuesday. Nurses have threatened to strike Wednesday if a new agreement is not reached.

John Righetti, the hospital's vice president of communications, said a number of committees that include nurses already exist at the hospital.

May, a nurse in the hospital's intensive care unit, said, however, that she and other nurses at Butler Memorial are concerned about nurse-to-patient ratios at the hospital, as well as the recruitment and retention of nurses.

She would not talk about specific ratios, but instead said it is important that nurses and hospital management sit down to talk about how the best nursing care can be provided to patients. She said she does not advocate a single, overall nurse-to-patient ratio, but different ratios that reflect the differing needs of patients.

In California, regulations are expected to be approved later this year that set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for different hospital departments. Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, said the union has worked 10 years to get the minimum ratios established.

Two years ago, unionized nurses at Butler Memorial, formerly represented by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, became part of what was then the new Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professions. Today, that union represents nurses in 11 hospitals in the state.

Playing a big part in helping Pennsylvania nurses establish a new union two years ago was the California Nurses Association. It offered guidance in the creation of a new nursing union, according to May and officials from the two unions.

The 44,000-member California union is recognized for helping to promote legislation for patients and nurses, alike, including the first minimum nurse-to-patient ratio in the nation.

Rose Ann DeMaro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, said she is pleased with the efforts being made by nurses at Butler Memorial Hospital to improve conditions there.

"I think that they will inspire all kinds of nurses (in Pennsylvania) to get involved and to get active," she said.

Patricia Buhl, a spokeswoman for Jeannette District Memorial Hospital in Jeannette, Westmoreland County, said the Pennsylvania association represents about 175 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses at that hospital.

She said the hospital's director of nursing meets monthly with union representatives-one representing registered nurses and the other representing licensed practical nurses-to discuss nursing issues.

There also is a professional performance committee, made up of management, union representatives and staff members who meet quarterly to discuss issues specific to departments within the hospital, she said.

Although Buhl said those meetings took place before nurses joined the union, Pearl Kolbosky, a critical care nurse there who was involved in forming the union, said the union was responsible for both the monthly and quarterly meetings.

The union has made a difference for nurses, she said. The union and the hospital entered into a new contract two years ago and a wage and pension reopener last year and got better results than nurses received in the past.

May said she hopes that gains like that can be made at Butler Memorial Hospital.

"We want to try something new, because obviously the approach we have taken (at BMH) in the past is not successful," the union president said.

"There's not enough staff to take care of patients ... and they (hospital officials) are having a hard time recruiting and retaining nurses, especially experienced nurses," May said.

About 305 unionized nurses work at the 260-bed hospital. Another 55 nurses work at the hospital, but in supervisory or management positions.

May was reluctant to talk about how many nurses she thought the hospital needed to have.

"What we have proposed ... is that we work jointly as a union and as a hospital and that we partner together to build and develop ratios that look at acuity and that look at (nurse) skill mix," May said.

But Righetti, the hospital's vice president of communications, said the hospital has a number of nursing committees.

"We do already have a fairly sophisticated network of what we call nursing committees," he said. "From our perspective, a partnership already exists between us and our nurses ... in terms of improving things here."

The committees, which are composed of nursing management and nurses, look at everything from hospital policies to attracting new staff, Righetti said.

Eight months ago, he said, the hospital created the position of special assistant to the president for a healthy workplace. That special assistant has created a mini-convenience store and a dry cleaning drop-off point in the hospital for employees' convenience.

The hospital also is partnering with Butler County Community College to attract more people into the health care field, as well as offering advanced training for existing hospital staff, Righetti said.

As for the development of nurse-to-patient ratios, Righetti said, hospital management is reluctant to have ratios "cemented" into its contract with nurses. He said management would prefer to have flexibility in nurse-to-patient ratios and that physicians at the hospital can request greater nurse-to-patient ratios at any time if they think additional nursing help is necessary.

Lawrence Sanata can be reached at [email protected] or (724) 779-7109.



BMH nurses extend cutoff

Strike deadline now 11 p.m.


4/9/02 - Butler Memorial Hospital's nurses have pushed back their strike deadline to 11 p.m. Wednesday because of progress in contract negotiations.

The nurses' three-year contract expires at midnight tonight.

The two sides have been in negotiations since January. On March 29, the nurses issued the hospital a 10-day strike notice that would go into effect at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

John Righetti, hospital spokesman, said this morning the two bargaining units have begun discussing wages and benefits, but that "it's too early to tell if we will have an agreement."

Tammy Kaufman, vice president of the Pennsylvania Independent Nurses union, which represents 305 nurses at the hospital, said this morning the extended deadline will allow the nurses' bargaining unit time to take a contract proposal to its membership for a vote before the strike deadline.

The nurses are also affiliated with the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, PASNAP.

"(Monday) was the first time since we started negotiations in January that I feel we made any progress," Kaufman said. "I am more hopeful today with the progress made on wages and benefits, and the educational needs of nurses."

However, Kaufman said, the hospital's bargaining unit still refuses to discuss nurse-to-patient ratios.

For complete story, please see Tuesday's Butler Eagle or to subscribe, call (724) 282-8000 ext.231.


To send a LETTER OF SUPPORT to the Butler Eagle, click on the following link:

Letter to the editor (Butler Eagle)

[email protected]


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

They just said on the news that there is a vote today. Earlier this week I heard a report that said the nurses wanted managment to do something about retention. Managments response was that their retention rates were the same as any other Pennslvania hospital. That cracked me up because the average retention rate in other hospitals is very bad. As a nurse at several different hospitals over the years I got the feeling that interest by managment in retention was very weak. Nothing has changed I see.

ma kettle

66 Posts

Whether you like or dislike unions, they will be setting a standard. Managment would rather pay peanuts for your work, dictate your time and overtimed worked and give you miniumal benefits. In years in past there was a glut of warm bodies. (nurses) But now there are still plenty of nurses, they are choosing to go into other fields ,where they, if nothing else they get respect. I think that nursing as a whole needs to band together an support each other. Some basic standards must be established for the acute care settings. By the why, most cost of living increases nation wide were around 6.0%. Most increases in pay last year for a nurses yearly income was 2% if you showed up to work and gave some effort. I like to see lawyers, bussiness executives and most college educated proffessions live to that same standard. Oh I forgot, most of them don't work holidays, weekends, and 24/7. These nurses need support. It may also effect your pay and nurse/patient ratio.

Home Health Columnist / Guide


11 Articles; 18,056 Posts

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

Website for PASNAP & updates : http://www.pennanurses.org


107 Posts

I support the nurses of Butler Memorial. Administration doesn't care about nurse retention because they have to pay more for nurses who have been there longer. They can screw a nurse just starting by giving her less money. Also, one of their tricks is to hire 3 part time nurses for one full time retiree. No benefits saves them a bundle.

What I have found with part time nurses is that they have no guilt about calling off if the schedule doesn't suit them. It results in the full-timers having to shoulder yet another shift.

I am not a union supporter or organizer. I left a hospital that voted in a union for a hospital that had none. However, the longer I work in nursing, the more I see their point.


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

On news at noon today(4/10) Channel 11 promised an indebth report on this impending strike on evening news. Looking forward to it with great interest.


2,709 Posts


and the NURSES opinion on how much staffing they need to provide quality NURSING care counts for....... what?

and thats the whole point.

Home Health Columnist / Guide


11 Articles; 18,056 Posts

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

bmh reopens services

nurses ok 3-year contract

4/11/02 - butler memorial hospital nurses voted 286-10 wednesday to approve a three-year contract.

as a result of the agreement, the hospital began reopening its services wednesday night.

tammy kaufman, vice president of the pennsylvania independent nurses union and a bmh registered nurse, said the nurses are "very happy with the contract."

jennifer smith of butler, a butler memorial hospital registered nurse, puts her vote in the ballot box wednesday during the contract ratification vote at the days inn on route 8 south. the nurses and hospital came to a contract agreement early wednesday morning with the nurses voting 286 to 10 to accept the hospital's proposal.

the hospital's 305 nurses are also affiliated with the pennsylvania association of staff nurses and allied professionals union.

the contract ends four months of negotiations and the threat of a strike by the nurses if an agreement could not be reached.

kaufman said the contract addresses all of the nurses' major concerns including staffing levels and the retention and recruitment of nurses.

"the hospital has agreed to form a staffing committee that will work out nurse staffing ratios based on safety and the acuity (severity of illness) of the patients," kaufman said wednesday afternoon at the days inn on route 8.

for complete story, please see thursday's butler eagle or to subscribe, call (724) 282-8000 ext.231.

will post full story tomorrow. karen

This topic is now closed to further replies.

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X