Nearly 800 nurses in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, are on strike against St. Mary Medical Center due to safety and staffing concerns. The strike was organized by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), which represents 8,500 nurses and health care professionals across Pennsylvania.

Temporary nurses have been hired while the full-time staff is on strike.

Negotiations for higher wages that would maintain staff numbers began more than a year ago, but slowed during the first wave of COVID-19 earlier this year.

Nurses feel that a strike is the only way to get the attention of Trinity Health Systems, the larger health care company that took over St. Mary years ago. PASNAP claims that health care workers have been quitting St. Mary and applying to other hospitals in the area, where hourly rates are up to $6 to $7 higher. 

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“A lot going on, on the inside that’s not safe. We are out here for safety,” PASNAP president Maureen May said to 6ABC. According to nurses, the patient-to-nurse ratios have been disproportionate and unsafe since Trinity took over.

“On the Medical Surgery Telemetry Unit, it should be four to one, five to one. There are days we have six patients each, seven patients each,” says Bill Engle, a medical-surgical nurse who’s been at the hospital for more than 15 years.

With the second wave of the COVID-19 approaching, nurses fear that the spike in case numbers will be detrimental to them and their patients. Although the strike was intended to last for two days, the hospital says it will schedule returning strikers to work “beginning on November 22,” as written in their recent statement.