ventura 020924SPRINGFIELD State Senator Rachel Ventura is leading a measure that would increase fines to hospitals that fail to implement a written staffing plan amidst continuous nurse negotiations at the St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet.

“There needs to be accountability for hospitals who negotiate and operate in bad faith,” said Ventura (D-Joliet). “Numerous nursing strikes have gone on and yet no changes have been implemented – it’s dangerous to the patient and nurses to be understaffed.”

Senate Bill 3217 would increase fines assessed on hospitals for failing to implement a written staffing plan to alleviate staffing shortages and increase pay from $500 to $5,000. Additionally, it would increase fines for failure to comply with the written plan from $500 to $10,000 and allows the Illinois Department of Public Health to revoke or suspend licenses for failure to comply with a plan of corrections a second or subsequent time.

The bill was introduced in response to recent developments at Ascension St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet. Union nurses at St. Joseph continued their strike in early February, which was the third nursing strike at the hospital in less than a year. The union rejected a contract offer in November due to concerns over staffing challenges and wages. In early January, a labor arbitrator ruled in favor of Ascension, saying that management had taken steps necessary to hire additional nurses.

“Having a bill like this in place would mean that nurses can finally take care of their patients safely,” said Beth Corestti, a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “These corporations need to be held accountable and this bill would completely change the way hospitals are ran in the state. It’s dangerous the way things are currently and I’m relieved that our complaints are being recognized.”

Since the negotiations began, the Illinois Department of Public Health has continued to investigate staffing complaints. St. Joseph Hospital has been flagged on three separate occasions for not complying with current law.

“Until the nurses are treated fairly and paid a livable wage, I will continue to stand by their side proudly,” said Ventura. “Nurses are the glue that holds our communities together – without them we wouldn’t be able to heal.”

Senate Bill 3217 was filed earlier this week and awaits committee assignment.