WILKES-BARRE – Dozens of unionized registered nurses picketing at a one-day strike outside Wilkes-Barre General Hospital were told not to report to work until Friday morning.
Hospital officials said some registered nurses crossed the picket line and reported to work, but the nurses who decided to go on strike have been instructed not to return to work until 7 a.m. on Friday, even though they offered to return on Wednesday morning.
“The hospital must fulfill a commitment made to temporary, replacement registered nurses for a 72-hour period, which was required in order to secure competent, qualified nurses,” the hospital statement said.
During a midday rally outside of the hospital, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals told Newswatch 16 that nurses were warned of the possibility of a lockout.
“They fly in these so-called strike breaking nurses from all over the country. A lot of places in the south, they pay them $80 an hour and they essentially want to get their money’s worth,” said Bill Cruice. “Not filling open positions, chronically understaffing other units, forcing nurses to work overtime in violation of state law. It’s all of these things that have combined together that have forced nurses to take this action.”
Fran Prusinski said she has worked at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital for 29 years, and she has noticed that staffing levels and morale have gone down, after Commonwealth Health took control of the hospital.
“It breaks our hearts to be out here, but if we don`t stand up now for our patients and the community, we`re afraid of where it would lead,” said Prusinski. “It’s not fair to the nurses; it’s not fair to the patients. We’re losing nurses. Nurses will not stay in conditions like this. And we want to make sure that there is a nurse at our patient’s bedside.”
During the midday rally, Sharon Reilly told Newswatch 16 that she and her family from West Chester were concerned about the scheduled strike, because her father is being treated for a heart attack that he suffered during a trip, as he was traveling to go deer hunting in Susquehanna County.
“I was so nervous when I heard that there was going to be a strike. He`s in CCU so he`s getting really good care. I mean so far, it`s been okay,” said Reilly. “I can’t imagine what they’re feeling, it must be serious if they’re willing to go this far. I hope it gets resolved soon because I know my dad is going to be in here a while.”
Other people visiting patients in the hospital, including a man who did not want to be identified, told Newswatch 16 that the striking nurses are being greedy.
“They’re some of the highest paid and best paid people in the valley. By getting more and more and more, it’ll just raise the healthcare costs for us. I don’t know if anybody has any sympathy for them,” the man said.