I am writing to express my wholehearted support for the registered nurses of UPMC Altoona as they go on strike.
It is important to recognize that this strike isn't for higher wages or more vacation time. The issues at stake are those that nurses in Altoona have earned over the years: appropriate nurse/patient ratios, competitive wages and comprehensive benefits.
Without these, UPMC Altoona is going to become a revolving door for newly trained nurses who work there only until they gain the experience necessary to get a job at a more competitive hospital.
The nurses who have years of invaluable work experience will no longer be a fixture in Altoona. Patient care will no doubt suffer without these trained nurses.
Through this strike, nurses hope to demonstrate the need for UPMC Altoona to maintain the current benefit and pay structure and guarantee that measures such as proper staffing levels are in place so patients receive the highest level of care.
UPMC, a nonprofit corporation, makes approximately $10 billion a year; 22 of their executives made more than $1 million in 2012.
Their argument that they are bringing the nurses in Altoona in line with what is done at other UPMC hospitals is weak. These board members are getting rich on the backs of the staff who work in these hospitals.
It's the staff members who are working weekends, holidays and double shifts to ensure that patients receive the highest level of care possible. I doubt that any of those highly compensated individuals know what it's like to spend 16 hours on your feet, dealing with incredibly stressful situations that literally could mean if someone lives or dies.
Moreover, it is unreasonable for UPMC to come into Altoona and expect the RNs to agree to lax staffing guidelines, more expensive health insurance and lower wages.
The nurses of UPMC Altoona aren't asking for unreasonable things. They want to be fairly compensated for the work they do, be properly staffed and ensure that the rules and regulations that hospital administration imposes do not have an adverse affect on their patients.
They deserve our support in this strike.