PHILADELPHIA – Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP) Hospital nurses were on the picket line at the hospital’s entrance here early on Nov. 11. Their signs expressed the issues preventing Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 112 from signing a contract: “No Mandatory Overtime” and “On Strike for Patient Safety.” The 271 nurses at MCP Hospital in Philadelphia are members of the Pennsylvania Nurse’s Association, an affiliate of the OPEIU.

Another issue that caused the nurses to strike is the lack of adequate staffing levels, said Rita Marie Quinn, a union spokesperson. “Twenty-five percent of the nursing positions at MCP Hospital are open, and we are constantly being asked to work overtime without notice,” she said.

Another nurse, who did want to give her name, said, “If you were a patient, would you want to be treated by a nurse who had just finished a 12 hour shift?”

MCP administrators are recruiting nurses from other states and offering them up to $4,000 bonuses to be scabs. When Local 112 members tried to prevent vans from bringing in these strikebreakers, the union was issued an injunction limiting the number of pickets at the hospital entrance.

MCP Hospital is owned by the for-profit Tenet Healthcare Corp. In the Philadelphia area, Tenet also owns and operates six other hospitals with a total of 1,764 beds. In all, Tenet operates 116 acute care hospitals in 17 states and employs 113,500 people. In 1998, Tenet invited Drexel University to be its “academic partner” in Philadelphia and to operate the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University, two medical schools associated with hospitals that Tenet had bought. In 2002, Drexel University merged with Tenet Health System Philadelphia Inc., a subsidiary of Tenet Healthcare Corporation. Drexel University was facing financial instability and received a $90 million contribution from Tenet. Drexel University focuses on technology-related and experiential learning and was declared America’s most “wired” university. All of Tenet’s hospitals now benefit from updated technology.

Because of the strike, the trauma centers at both MCP and Hahnemann University Hospital have been closed. Hahnemann says its closing is due to a shortage of trauma surgeons and physicians. Patients are being sent to other hospitals. After a week without negotiations, both sides met on Nov. 17.

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