Pa. nurses, lawmakers rally for safe staffing levels

Produced By: - May 2, 2023 1:22 pm

Pennsylvania nurses and their advocates in the General Assembly called for passage Tuesday of legislation limiting the number of patients that individual nurses would be required to care for in healthcare facilities across the state.

On Tuesday, the majority-Democrat House Health Committee held a public hearing on the House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Dauphin. It’s been dubbed the “Patient Safety Act.”

As he rallied with nurses and their advocates on the Capitol steps after the meeting, Mehaffie said the bill was a way for legislators to really honor frontline workers they’d called “healthcare heroes” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a team effort,” said Mehaffie, who sponsored a similar bill during last year’s legislative session that ran into a dead-end in the Health Committee, which was then controlled by his own party. “You are part of the team. And I am so proud to stand here as a team member and get this bill done.”

Sen. Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, a nurse, who has proposed the Senate’s version of the bill, said lawmakers “have no time to waste” to approve the legislation.

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“Our nurses protect our patients 24/7,” the suburban Philadelphia lawmaker said to cheers from the crowd of nurses standing behind her on the state Capitol steps on a chill and drizzly Tuesday morning. 

“We have joined together to highlight the desperate need for change to make our hospitals safer, and to call on our General Assembly to deliver to the governor legislation which will support our patients and the dedicated healthcare professionals that respond to to any — and every — crisis,” Collett said.

As of March 2022, 16 states had laws or regulations addressing nurse staffing issues, according to the American Nurses Association. Two states, California and Massachusetts, layout specific ratios that must be maintained at all times. 

For Denelle Korin, a nurse at Mount Nittany Medical Center in Centre County, Tuesday’s House committee meeting was long overdue.

“To my siblings in scrubs, to our patients, and to our citizens across the commonwealth, today nurses made history,” Korin, a 20-year nursing veteran and union activist, told the crowd. “After nearly a decade of having the Patient Safety Act unheard and pushed aside, today, we were heard.”

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.

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