Rally supports nurses against corporate predator

PHILADELPHIA – Several hundred members of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199C waved their yellow banners as they rallied along with other unionists and community people in solidarity with striking Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP) Hospital nurses here on Nov. 24.

Presidents of five local unions, Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and City Controller Jonathan Saidel spoke at the rally in support of the nurses who are on strike for a fair contract with adequate staffing and without mandatory overtime. MCP Hospital is owned by Tenet Health Care Corporation.

Police held back the crowd as vans carrying scab nurses fled the parking lot. “No Scabs! No Scabs!” shouted the crowd. Tenet has flown in nurses from as far away as California and Colorado promising them a $4,000 bonus to break the strike. Said Saidel, “We’re sending Tenet a message. Their top executives are making millions on the backs of nurses.”

Patricia Donohue, president of the nurses’ union, Local 112 OPEIU, said MCP Hospital has the highest patient-to-nurse ratio of any area hospital. Nurses are forced to work overtime up to 16 hours without notice or overtime pay. “We are tired of being told to abandon our patients and our families,” said Donohue. According to MCP nurse Patricia Brooks, “We give excellent service to a diverse community regardless of race, income, ethnicity or age. When MCP Hospital succumbed to bankruptcy, we kept working.” Striking nurses told the World that Tenet has canceled their health coverage.

Thomas Cronin, president of AFSCME District Council 47, called Tenet a “corporate predator.” He added, “Tenet Healthcare Corporation has been investigated and sued for over-billing Medicare, forcing indigent patients to pay full costs and ordering unneeded surgeries and procedures.” Tenet owns six other hospitals in the Philadelphia area and a total of 116 hospitals in 17 states. Its profits increased 118 percent last year. Its administration costs average $1,059 per patient. “The establishment of a national health care, single-payer system should be the number one issue in the 2004 election,” said Cronin.

Henry Nicholas, president of 1199C, which has members at MCP Hospital, exclaimed, “Your strike is our strike.” Nicholas offered his support at the negotiations table. Support was also offered by Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ President Ted Kirsh and Karen Bojar, Philadelphia chapter of NOW, and a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

“This is a perfect example of why profit and competition should not be a part of health care,” said Terri Falbo, from the Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women.

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net.