Labor secretary praises Allegheny General Hospital during visit

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on Wednesday morning visited Allegheny General Hospital, where he lauded the efforts of managers and union nurses as a “national model” for labor-management partnerships.

The secretary’s visit to AGH is part of a broader agenda to learn about the strategies of successful labor-management partnerships in Pennsylvania and beyond.

‘‘In Allegheny General Hospital, you are using your workforce as an engine of innovation’’ Mr. Perez said. ‘‘After all, who knows better about what makes a quality operation than folks who are in the front lines?’’

Following a conference with AGH President and CEO Michael Harlovic, the secretary was introduced to members of the nursing staff to discuss their collaboration with hospital managers to improve healthcare delivery.

Through the standardization of processes and the enforcement of renumeration based on quality over quantity of health services, hospital managers and nurses from the Service Employees International Union have agreed to incorporate funding for quality improvement programs into employment contracts.

Jane Miller, who has served as an AGH nurse since 1979, is the engineer of SEIU’s latest undertaking. When hospital management identified a problem with time lost preparing patients for the operating room, Ms. Miller mobilized a group of nurses to create classes that would help their colleagues accelerate the process. The curriculum, endorsed by AGH managers, encourages staff accompaniment from the time a patient signs in until they are returned to their care unit.

Since the implementation of the program earlier this year, AGH has clocked record times for the transfer of patients.

‘‘I think the patients are satisfied,’’ said Ms. Miller. ‘‘They feel safer getting back with a nurse.’’

Other joint ventures include the Hearts of Gold Program, a project seeking to teach staff how to build relationships with patients.

“This is only possible because nurses are able to have a voice,” said Cathy Stoddart, the leader of AGH’s nurses’ union.

Mr. Perez concluded his visit to AGH by addressing members of Allegheny County Council and SEIU Pennsylvania representatives.

‘‘Partnership in action produces win-win solutions for everybody,’’ Mr. Perez said.

Neil Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, touted the collaborative efforts of AGH workers as ‘‘imperative to the way the healthcare business is going.’’

Rocio Labrador: or 412-263-1370.

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