Striking nurses question fill-ins They cite problems and want replacements' credentials checked. Temple's CEO alleged scare tactics and said quality was still high.

Posted: April 03, 2010

Striking registered nurses and health professionals on Friday called on Temple University Hospital to document credentials of the 850 temporary workers recruited to tend to patients since the walkout began Wednesday.

The union said it had received "dozens of reports" of "problems with patient care," Maureen May, president of the Temple Nurses Union, said at a briefing outside the hospital on North Broad Street.

"We want the Department of Health to investigate," said Patricia Eakin, registered nurse in Temple Hospital's emergency room and statewide president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals union, PASNAP.

Later, Sandy Gomberg, Temple's chief executive officer, said that the hospital's 400 doctors and 3,000 nonstriking employees were caring for patients as always and that the union was attempting to "frighten" the public and distract the focus from the "real issues" of wages and benefits.

The union said hospital conditions posed a risk to patients, with reports of replacement nurses in some intensive-care units working 20-hour shifts, as well as delays in getting X-rays and lab reports.

Gomberg said Temple sent letters to all striking workers Wednesday inviting them to return to work under the university's latest offer. "A number of employees have chosen to come back to work," she said.

The hospital "continues to be very busy, and we continue to provide the same high-quality care," Gomberg said. "The hospital is fully open across all clinical services. We've reduced no services and closed no departments."

No negotiations have been scheduled by the state mediator.

"We urge Temple to transfer out all unstable patients and enable doctors to temporarily receive privileges to care for patients in other hospitals," said union president May, noting that Temple registered nurses were available to help, in "a genuine patient emergency," to stabilize patients.

PASNAP executive director Bill Cruice said replacement nurses in the respiratory intensive-care unit were working 20-hour shifts, with a nurse-to-patient ratio of one nurse for four patients, when the norm is one nurse for two patients.

"The emergency room has been on divert more in the last two days than it's typically on divert in two months," Cruice said.

Executive Chief Daniel Williams of the Philadelphia Fire Department said patients were diverted from Temple's emergency room Wednesday from 7 a.m., when the strike, began until 9 a.m., and again from 10:28 p.m. Thursday to 2:28 a.m. Friday.

The union wants Temple to document compliance with state laws and to verify that replacement workers are licensed with valid credentials. PASNAP contends the agency doing most of the strike hiring, HealthSource Global Staffing, of California, had submitted false payroll reports and failed to pay insurance premiums owed to a state compensation insurance fund, according to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco.

Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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