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Alle-Kiski Medical Center nurses unionize

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nurses at Alle-Kiski Medical Center overwhelmingly agreed to unionize Wednesday night.

"The nurses voted 213-61 to join the SEIU," said Maria Radvansky, of New Kensington, an emergency room nurse.

About 350 nurses at AKMC — which includes both Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison and Citizens Ambulatory Care Center in New Kensington — will join the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania umbrella.

Several nurses said their decision to unionize was based on improving patient care. None interviewed cited wages or benefits as the driving force.

"We'll be able to get better staffing to ensure higher quality care," said Radvansky, who has worked for the medical center for eight years. "It's absolutely fabulous."

"We can push forward to get better staff numbers, better patient safety, just better care overall," said Jill Kochman of New Kensington, a nurse for eight years who deals primarily with starting intravenous lines.

"I think it's good," said Janet Becker of Allegheny Township. "It'll improve our relationship with management and keep us together. We'll work together for patient care."

Kochman noted the nurses have talked "off and on" about forming a union for some time.

"We all want a voice in what's happening in the hospital," said Becker, a nurse on the surgical floor who started working for the medical center 10 years ago during the merger with Citizens General Hospital in New Kensington.

Linda Jaskolka, spokeswoman for AKMC, said hospital leadership was informed about the nurses' decision.

"We at AKMC and the West Penn Allegheny Health System value our employees and are committed to working together as a team to address the challenges that face our industry," she said.

"We expect the SEIU will share our goal of health care excellence in the community," Jaskolka added.

Nurses said the next step in the process will be meeting with hospital administrators to negotiate a contract.

Jaskolka said she could not comment on what happens next.

About 1,300 nurses already are members of the SEIU at Allegheny General Hospital, the flagship hospital of the West Penn Allegheny Health System. Statewide, the union represents about 20,000 health-care workers, according to the SEIU's website.

About 500 nonprofessional workers at AKMC joined the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 in 2002.

In Armstrong County, about 200 nurses at ACMH Hospital in East Franklin are members of the Healthcare-Pennsylvania State Education Association union. ACMH's more than 200 nonprofessional workers are members of the United Steelworkers of America.

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