Nurses Picket Wilkes-Barre General Hospital

WILKES-BARRE — Some unionized nurses walked off the job Tuesday morning after their old contract at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital ran out.

Those workers say seven months without a contract is long enough. They walked off the job to protest what they say is management bargaining in bad faith.

Around 150 nurses hit the picket line. They’re holding this noontime rally on the sidewalk along North River Street, just off of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital’s property.

Instead of being on the job, dozens of unionized nurses are on the sidewalk at 7 a.m. in front of the hospital.

This is emergency room nurse Stan Wielgopolski’s third time on strike. He’s been a Wilkes-Barre General employee for 25 years.

“We’re out here, if we have to fight for our patients on the street, we’ll fight for our patients on the street,” said Wielgopolski.

The nurses have been working under the terms of their old contract since April.  They claim management is bargaining in bad faith.

Wages, the cost of health care, and staffing levels are said to be the major issues keeping both sides apart.

The head of the union, a 32-year nurse, says we all have a stake in what happens here.

“If we’re not taking home money, the local economy suffers, there’s a whole domino effect,” union president Elaine Weale said.

According to a union spokesman, the average unionized nurse at Wilkes-Barre General makes $49,000 a year.

Wilkes-Barre General Hospital is owned by Commonwealth Health, a for-profit company based in Tennessee.  It has hired replacement workers during the strike, and a spokesman for management says patient care will not suffer.

Striking workers question the safety issue, but add they’re not sure how things are going inside, while they’re outside.

Safe or not, the replacement issue disappears Wednesday morning at 7 a.m., when the unionized nurses strike is scheduled to end.

Management says it’s business as usual, even with the replacements at Wilkes-Barre General.  All departments, including the emergency room, remain open.

Nurses will be picketing on the sidewalks throughout the day and will hold a vigil at 5:30 p.m.

The union says that even though nurses are being “blatantly disrespected” they will return to work at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Officials at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and its owner Commonwealth Health declined to talk with us on camera  but insisted that qualified nurses are filling in, that scheduled surgeries should still happen, and that the E.R. and other departments are open as this one-day strike continues.

4 comments

  • Muchtosay

    Gia, you do realize your complaints are the reason why these nurses are asking for better staffing, right? You said yourself the nursery was backed up. With adequate staffing, there wouldn’t be lag time or burnout. I too had a baby at this hospital in the last couple of years and received knowledgable and kind care. I know I wouldn’t want to be forced to work twice as long as I was supposed to, especially if I would normaly be sleeping at that time. I’m just glad you aren’t a nurse because you obviously lack the compassion required to be one. Do the world a favor and don’t have any more babies.

  • Gia

    This is the most I’ve seen some of these nurses do. I have been to this hospital numerous times, not for just myself but for family members and the level of care is despicable. Some of these nurses should be ashamed to be asking for an increase in pay or benefits. I was just recently in the hospital (Maternity Care) and it was horrible. None of the nurses seemed to want to do anything. I had a C-section and they never seemed to want to clean the area (even when I asked). They were nasty about trying to show me how to breastfeed my baby. I had trouble because I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and it was very difficult. They became frustrated when I couldn’t do it correctly. They made me so nervous I finally told them to leave me and my baby alone (and guess what I figured it out on my own because people weren’t yelling at me and making me nervous). The nursery was slow to my requests for my baby. I didn’t even get to hold my child for well over 2 hours after birth because they were so backed up. I mean that’s ridiculous. Not all but most. I would say 4 out of the 20 or so nurses I encountered actually were great. That is very sad. Shape up Nurses do a better job and maybe they’ll compensate better.

    • meg massaker (@shmeg343)

      Gia I don’t know what hospital you were at but it must have not been general?! I am an RN at general and I can tell you that each and ever patient is cared for with the best care we could provide! You may not see all the behind the scenes but trust me your nurse is not slacking. While your complaint you didn’t get your drink fast enough your nurse is comforting a patient who is taking their last breath or letting that patients family cry on her should. Your nurse is skipping her lunch break so that you and her 5 other patients can be cared for. Your nurse goes home and thinks about her patients all night while she is with her family. Your nurse is often holding her bladder for 12 hours so that she can put her patients needs before her own. Your nurse is missing holidays with her family so she can care for yours. And while you are complaining it is taking us too long for you to get you your baby, we are trying to save a dying mothers life she she could hold her child before it’s to late. So please put yourself in another persons shoes.

  • Maria McKenna

    These RNs work hard. Often understaffed, the volume of patients is far beyond what can safely be attended to. With the profits this company made JUST on this one hospital alone last year, it can only be attributed to greed that they refuse to bargain fairly with these hard-working RNs. Big business and healthcare are like oil and water… Someone has to be on top, and the other pushed down… Now, you know darn well the company isn’t sinking….

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