I am a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, which was purchased in December by Tower Health and Drexel University. I have worked there for five years and have been a nurse for eight years. I have an 11-week old son.
Even though my hospital made $54 million in profit in 2018, it was bought out for just $50 million. The paid time off (PTO) I worked so hard to save so I could spend time with my baby was taken from me by Tower Health and Drexel just two weeks after he was born.
Drexel President John Fry and Tower Health CEO Clint Matthews have refused to recognize our accrued PTO. My husband, who is a Philadelphia firefighter, is now forced to work overtime so I can stay home, unpaid, to care for our baby and our 2-year-old daughter. He gets to spend less time with his newborn son because Tower Health and Drexel are more interested in lining their pockets than in ensuring that sick children have experienced and qualified nurses that are valued by the hospital in which they work.
We are fighting for all of our accrued PTO with Tower and Drexel. My union, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), has launched a GoFundMe to help pregnant nurses and nurses on maternity leave at St. Chris pay our bills in the meantime. But we shouldn’t have to fund-raise for benefits we are owed.
Tower Health and Drexel have dishonestly claimed that they have given reasonable PTO. Nothing could be further from the truth. They’ve given nonbargaining employees just one year of PTO, no matter how long they have worked here and what PTO was built up before, at a rate less than what we accrued in the past. They want bargaining employees to settle for the same.
I had saved approximately 220 hours of PTO to cover the full first 12 weeks of my son’s life. When I was sick, I worried about using that time. I skipped vacations and being able to stay at home because I knew how crucial it was to be there for my child in the first few weeks of his life. Tower Health and Drexel cannot hide from the fact that they have stolen that time.
Tower Health and Drexel have also gone after another key element of care: our contractual mandate for safe nurse staffing. Rather than honor the safe staffing standards, including a staffing “grid” that we negotiated for our contract in 2019, they have refused to include the grid and honor the staffing system we saw as safe for nurses and patients.
Nurses at St. Chris provide care to the sickest children in the poorest big city in America. We do it because we love to help these children get better. Without St. Chris nurses, the hospital would not function.
That is why ensuring safe nurse staffing at the bedside has been shown time and again to improve patient outcomes.
Since we organized with PASNAP in 2016, we have made big strides in reducing nurse turnover at St. Chris so that sick children have the most professional nursing staff to provide care for them. What Tower Health and Drexel are trying to do is eliminate the gains we have made for patient care to enrich their own pockets.
Both Fry and Matthews have refused to meet personally with St. Chris nurses. That has left us with the impression that they do not see St. Chris as a critical resource for care. They see St. Chris as a moneymaker.
I can’t help but feel angry about this. My child deserves for his mother and father to be able to spend time with him. The sick children at St. Chris deserve a nurse. We aren’t asking for anything less than what we, the nurses and patients, are owed.
Tower Health and Drexel should be held responsible. We are urging elected officials and community leaders to make their voices heard — to say that this is an outrage and to help us secure what’s rightly owed. St. Chris deserves it. The children deserve it.