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Nurses fire back at Rapp for blocking staffing bill

State Representative Kathy Rapp said a bill that would mandate patient-to-staff ratios for nurses won’t leave her Health Committee.

The comment was buried an hour into a three-and-a-half hour virtual hearing held last week on the condition of rural health care across the Commonwealth.

The subject bill — HB 106 — has been sitting in Rapp’s committee for nearly a year. It’s prime sponsor is a Republican, Rep. Tom Mehaffie, who said during a press event this week that the measure has a total of 105 co-sponsors.

That’s enough to pass the bill outright.

Mehaffie and several other legislators joined with representatives from several health care organizations including SEIU Healthcare PA, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) and Nurses of Pennsylvania gathered at the state capitol to fight back.

“I can’t help but think if this was in place 10 years ago we would not be here today,” Mehaffie said during the conference, a portion of which was streamed live on his Facebook page.

He credited the “hard work and calls made by nurses of Pennsylvania” as the reason the bill has been so heavily supported.

“We have to pass this through the House, through the Senate and get it to the governor as soon as possible,” he added. “We are in a health care crisis. We have issues beyond belief when it comes to this system,” highlighting the bipartisan nature of the bill.

PASNAP has been taking shots at Rapp, seeking to apply pressure in the wake of her statement last week.

They say the bill is being “held hostage” by Rapp. “Rep. Rapp, do you really want to block minimum safety standards in hospitals? Really? We’re not taking no for an answer.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to bring this to the forefront?” PASNAP President Maureen May said during the press event. “Why wouldn’t you want to hear our grievances?”

The use of the term grievances is no doubt a homage to Rapp indicating last week that she had heard no real grievances over staffing to date.

Democratic Rep. Bridget Kosierowski added that as a nurse for 27 years she witnessed the “cracks in a very broken health care system” and said that “with insufficient staffing we are, unfortunately, harming the sick.”

She called that a “grave injustice to the residents of this Commonwealth.

“Literally, we are jeopardizing the health and safety of our heroes at the bedside.”

State Senator Maria Collett has introduced the same provisions in the state Senate, a bill which also sits at committee.

“Today we are at a crossroads in the Commonwealth,” she said during the press event, explaining that even before the pandemic “nurses have been stretched too thin.”

Rapp detailed her rationale during the hearing last week.

“This is a bill that I cannot in good conscience support,” she said. “In my mind, this is a contractual issue. I don’t believe legislators should really get involved with contractual issues.”

“I do not believe that legislators, who are not on the front lines, have a real idea what goes on every day in the hospital,” she continued, “and I believe that is best left to the administration of the hospital and the staff that work there.”

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