ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– Nearly a dozen UPMC Altoona nurses rallied in front of the Blair County Courthouse Tuesday in response to a memo sent by UPMC Altoona increasing the patient-to-staff ratio.
Nurses spoke to the community about these increased workloads and called on legislation to pass the Patient Safety Act. This bill made by nurses and political allies would set a safe patient-to-staff ratio and improve hospital conditions and standards of care for nurses and patients.
This memo sent out on April 29 mentions that staff will now have to take care of eight patients at once due to the staffing shortages. The memo also states the situation is “not ideal, nor is it safe. But this a direct order coming from upper management.”
It further discusses that any nurse who doesn’t want to do the task that is asked: “may result in an HR trip.” The memo ends by saying that they hope they’ll be in a better place soon.
UMPC Altoona Registered nurse Abigail Urion said that the words on that memo wording did not sit right. She and her coworkers felt the same reaction of shock.
“When I opened the email and saw that, I was a little shocked at first. But you know it didn’t sit well,” Urion said.
The memo went viral on social media after famous nurse social media advocate, The Nurse Erica posted the words on TikTok. She told WTAJ that over 50 nurses reached out to her platform asking for her to spread the word.
In the TikTok, Erica reads the memo word for word and provides her commentary. The video currently has over 235,000 views with over 1,700 comments.
“Really, UPMC Altoona, really, that’s a threat. That’s not even a veiled threat. That’s a threat. You are admitting it’s not safe. Make it make sense,” Erica said in the video.
UPMC did provide a statement to WTAJ about this viral memo. They said that these comments written are reflective of employees’ opinions. The statement then further said,
“We always encourage staff to escalate any quality or safety concerns, and no nurse would ever face disciplinary actions for raising any related concerns. As such, a team member would never be sent to HR for raising patient safety issues–that allegation is simply not true.”
Regardless, nurses will continue to call for legislators to pass the bill. UPMC Registered Nurse Jaime Balsamo said at the podium that passing this act would encourage more nurses to come back.
“These are facts. Passing the Patient Safety Act will encourage nurses to come back to the bedside,” Balsamo said. “In a recent survey of nurses who have left their jobs in the last two years, nearly half said they would likely consider working at the bedside again if the Patient Safety Act passes.”
Urion noted that many of the nurses she knows who left became travel nurses. According to Urion, travel nurses have more benefits and make better money.
But for nurses to stay in their positions, they said there needs to be a change. The nurses are asking Chair of the Health Committee Kathy Rapp to call a hearing on the bill so it can be moved to the committee vote.
“There has to be changes,” Urion said. “There has to be safe staff-to-patient ratios in the contract. I feel we need to hold UPMC more accountable, and the way to do that is to have a strong contract and strong union.”
Urion went on further to say that this bill would also improve a patient’s quality of care.
Get the latest local news, weather, and community events. Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter.
“It’s not just another article that is going to get passed,” Urion said. “And it’s not going to do anything. This is really going to help the patients. It’s going to help the nurses. It’s going to help the sick people get the care that they deserve, and they need.”