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Nearly 800 nurses outside Philadelphia strike as COVID-19 cases surge

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Nearly 800 nurses at a suburban Philadelphia hospital walked off the job in protest as coronavirus cases continue to soar throughout Pennsylvania, video shows.

The footage from Tuesday shows hundreds of registered nurses at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne protesting what they claim is a serious staffing shortage amid the ongoing pandemic they fear is going to worsen in coming months.

Some nurses at the hospital said they’re already dangerously overworked, caring for up to seven patients instead of a typical three or four, CBS Philadelphia reported.

“What that means is the call bells are not being answered,” nurse Donna Halpern said. “There’s a human being behind that call bell with a need and I’ve heard call bells ringing for a half-hour.”

Nurse Robert Bozek blames the Catholic health system that owns the hospital, Trinity Health, for the worsening situation at the facility, which remains open.

“Trinity seems not to want to negotiate a fair contract that is safe moving forward, with benefits that we can recruit and retain staff,” Bozek told the station.

More than 240 nurses have left the hospital in the past two years for jobs at nearby facilities where pay is higher, union officials said.

“So what happens is, we orient them and then they leave to go to local hospitals and make $6 and $7 more an hour,” nurse Robert Gentile said. “So it’s really sad. We’re the most underpaid nurses in Bucks County.”

The strike is also planned for Wednesday, but a union representing the nurses told the Philadelphia Inquirer they won’t be allowed back to work until Sunday in order to ensure a safe transition with replacement frontline health care workers.

The replacement nurses are working on a five-day contract, the newspaper reported.

Trinity Health, which is based in Michigan, owns 90-plus hospitals in 22 states, including five in the Philadelphia region. St. Mary Medical Center made an average annual profit of $58 million in the last three years, according to documents cited by the Inquirer.

Nearly 800 nurses at a hospital in eastern Pennsylvania’s Bucks County went on strike yesterday morning.
Nearly 800 nurses at a hospital in eastern Pennsylvania’s Bucks County went on strike yesterday morning.PASNAP via Storyful

Trinity Health, meanwhile, said in a statement the nurses’ union rejected a “very competitive” compensation offer while noting that the workers walked off the job as the country and community contends with a “surge” in COVID-19 cases.

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