Nursing/health (217205)
Blood pressure Credit: CDC/Amanda Mills acquired from Public Health Image Libraryf/

Registered nurses at the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in Pottstown, Pa., continued their organizing ways last week when they voted to join a union.

PMMC nurses, in an 189-129 vote, joined the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional, an affiliate of the Northeast Nurses Association, which has been organizing unions representing nurses in New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Nurses have organized in favor of better patient care and staffing conditions. According to PASNAP, the majority of the non-professional and technical staff at PMMC belongs to the Service Employees International Union.

“At a time when registered nurses throughout Pennsylvania are facing deteriorating working and patient care conditions, hospital corporations such as CHS continue to reap substantial profits while pampering their executives with bloated, seven-figure compensation and benefit packages,” said Bill Cruice, executive director of PASNAP, in a statement. “Nurses and other health care professionals are clearly sending the message that their hospital’s priorities, and resources, must shift immediately to the bedside and to patient care.”

Pottstown Memorial Medical Center has been owned by Community Health Systems, the second-largest hospital for-profit chain, since 2003. It’s based in Franklin, Tenn.

“PMMC could be a great hospital,” stated Crystal Hoch, an ICU nurse at Pottstown. “It could be so much more if only CHS would invest in it and in the dedicated nursing staff. Nurses are the heart and soul of this hospital, but it seems that we have been made to feel apart purposefully. The nurses here respect each other, and all we want to do is work with the hospital administration to improve conditions for both nurses and patients.”

The Pottstown nurses started organizing in late April after complaining about understaffing, broken equipment and “inadequate” training, coupled with below market wages and employee health insurance.

“I love being a nurse,” said Deborah Zelenak, a medical surgical nurse at the hospital. “It is what I’m supposed to do. I’ve been a nurse for 25 years and hope to continue for many more. My priority has always been to give the best care to my patients, and now with our union we will be able to do that. Our concerns will no longer fall on deaf ears.”

“I welcome the newest nurses to PASNAP and congratulate them on their decision to have a voice on the job to improve patient safety,” added Patty Eakin, RN, president of PASNAP and member of the NENA Executive Board, in a statement. “They join the other 8,000 PASNAP nurses and allied health professionals who advocate every day for safe staffing and dignity on the job.”