ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)–UPMC Altoona nurses are still expressing concerns about the increase in the staff to patient ratio. This new change by the hospital is now trickling down to patient care because of the overwhelming load.

The hospital released a memo on April 29 about nurses having to increase the number of patients they care for to eight. The memo said they knew this change was not safe or ideal but had to be done. It even stated that those that did not comply would meet with HR.

UPMC released a statement back on May 10, stating that these claims were untrue and that there would never be an HR trip. Many nurses have invalidated that claim saying that they have received pushback anytime they’ve spoken out.

Nurses Alec Stele and Dina Norris said that they had received no answers to their questions and concerns from the administration. The more patients they have to care for, the less time they get to spend with a patient.

“They’re increasing six, seven, eight patients; I don’t know where that line stops,” Stele said. “I mean, that means less time to be with my patient the more that gets added on. People come here to be taken care of; you know I want to do the best I can do. But it gets harder when they’re throwing more and more at us.”

In a statement from a UPMC Spokesperson on June 3, they had this to say:

The nurse who claims they were fired did not face disciplinary action as they were not an employee of UPMC Altoona but a temporary agency contractor. Delivering safe, quality patient care is always our highest priority. We encourage staff to escalate any quality or patient safety concerns and no nurse would face disciplinary action from UPMC Altoona for raising any related concerns.

As the region’s trauma and advanced care hospital, our patients depend on us being here to care for them when they need us most. UPMC Altoona is here to care for our community.

Norris added that professionals have a right to say no to the number of patients they can care for. She works in the neuro/trauma unit and said it’s a lot to manage the multiple conditions that her patients have.

“That situation has not been received well, that refusal. Nobody wants to get off easy,” Norris said. “No one wants to work less, not do their duty. We are simply licensed professionals saying enough is enough. I can’t handle any more at this moment, and we are seeing that pushback from the administration. It’s ugly.”

Tensions are even further escalating between nurses and administration. Stele recalls having a supervisor threaten patient abandonment against him and his team because of speaking out on the unsafe conditions. He further says that after asking for proof on that claim, it was not provided.

That threat would entail a nurse’s name being sent to the state’s board of nursing, where they would then see if an investigation could be launched. Norris doesn’t understand how they’ve got to this point.

“When they go to the point of threatening to report you to the board of nursing,” Norris said. “Why? How is that? I want to know why have we come to that?”

Beth Ann Lechner saw the effects of this change with the care of her husband. He was diagnosed with pancreas cancer in March. Lechner said it took a while to get a bed, and he wasn’t receiving round-the-clock care as he needed.

Lechner said that there were not enough nurses, and she had to be with him constantly. She describes him not receiving a bath, wounds not being cleaned, or having his medicine consistently.

“The nurse I understand overwhelmed comes in angry at my husband and says, ‘Your wife called. You’re going to get me in trouble,’ Lechner said. “Here, my husband is sick like this, and for someone to come in and say that is really upsetting.”

Lechner said that because nurses are not attentive, she’s taken time away from her job and her daughter. However, she does understand that they’re overwhelmed with their number of patients. She eventually transferred

“This is a hospital. I should be able to come home and spend time with my daughter,” Lechner said. “And know that he’s being taken care of, and that’s not happening.”

The nurses and Lechner agree that the hospital needs to hire more nurses and assistance to settle the troubles. Stele said that they need to listen to them more and understand that they’re the ones handling the patients.

“Honestly, I wish they would just listen to us. We’re on the floors every day taking care of the people,” Stele said. “When you’re pushing too much, it pushes a certain line. I just want safe working conditions for everyone.”

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Lechner’s husband was transferred to Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he’s receiving attentive treatment for his cancer. UPMC did give WTAJ any comment on these allegations.