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West Penn Hospital Nurses Highlight Pandemic’s Strain As Union Negotiations Continue

Nurses from West Penn Hospital called on management to invest in nurses.
Julia Zenkevich
/
90.5 WESA
A group of West Penn Hospital nurses gathered across the street from the hospital on Thursday to ask for more support from management.

On Thursday, nurses from West Penn Hospital gathered in Friendship Park to call on hospital leaders to agree to a new union contract that “respects and invests in nurses” after an extremely challenging year.

Nurses at West Penn say they are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic, and that nurses who left the hospital weren’t replaced, even though patient numbers kept going up.

Emily Hrvatin is a registered nurse who works at West Penn. She said hospital management needs to listen to the concerns nurses have brought to them, and give the nurses more say in patient care.

“We’re the ones working on the front lines,” Hrvatin said. “We know better than anyone else what our patients need.”

About 700 nurses voted to unionize with SEIU in August 2020, and have been negotiating a new contract with hospital management since January. They hope a deal will help recruit and retain nurses.

Kari Xander is a registered nurse at West Penn. She said that while management and nurses agree on some issues, like the importance of hiring new nurses and retaining employees, management has not adequately responded to their concerns or the solutions they’ve proposed.

“We know what it’s going to take, and they need to take our ideas, take our proposals more seriously,” said Xander.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross and state Sen. Jay Costa, both Democrats, also attended and voiced support for the nurses.

In a statement, Allegheny Health Network, which runs West Penn Hospital, said it will continue to negotiate in good faith with its employees.

“We are committed to offering employees at every level – including both represented and non-represented members of the workforce – wages and benefits that are fair and competitive in the market, and working conditions that are conducive to the delivery of high quality health care services,” Dan Laurent, a spokesperson for the company, said.

There is no timeline for when a deal between hospital management and nurses could be reached.