Dec. 02, 2021

HERSHEY – Hospitals are at or over capacity, nurses are exhausted and the staffers who haven’t already left are considering doing so, according to nurses and other health care professionals who testified before the House Majority Policy Committee today.

Short-staffed hospitals are paying exorbitant prices to travel nurse agencies engaged in price gouging, according to Michele Szkolnicki, chief nursing officer at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

“It is a wicked, perpetual cycle,” she said.

Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) invited Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), committee chairman, and other legislators to the hangar for Penn State Health’s Life Lion helicopter to hear from leaders in nursing, hospital administration, home care and nursing homes. 

“We have patients waiting hours and sometimes days for beds in inpatient settings,” said Margaret DiCuccio, chief nursing officer for Allegheny Health Network.

Testifiers lamented the need for retention bonuses, increased pay for nursing faculty, expanded financial aid opportunities for students and improved methods of recruiting nurses to rural hospitals. DiCuccio testified she has 1,100 open positions to fill for registered nurses.

Mehaffie spoke about House Bill 106, which he introduced in conjunction with Rep. KC Tomlinson (R-Bucks). The legislation would establish safe patient limits under the care of a single nurse. Mehaffie hopes the initiative would minimize burnout among those in the nursing profession.

“If something like this was implemented years ago, we may not be in this situation,” he said. “Without nurses, we don’t have hospitals. This is a huge issue statewide, and I think it’s national.”

Mehaffie thanked Causer for bringing attention to the workforce shortages.

Representative Thomas Mehaffie
106th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Fitch
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