AYER, Mass. -- In the wake of hospital management's recent decision to cut nurse staffing in its emergency department, the registered nurses at Steward-owned NVMC, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, recently spearheaded an overwhelmingly successful petition campaign calling on management to reverse its decision in order to preserve ED services.
WHAT: Petition delivery to Sal Perla, president of Nashoba Valley Medical Center (NVMC); the petitions address NVMC's recent, ill-planned decision to cut RN staffing in the emergency department (ED).
WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 26. RNs and supporters will gather at 11:45 a.m.; petition delivery at noon.
WHERE: Just outside the main entrance of Nashoba Valley Medical Center, 200 Groton Rd, Ayer.
WHO: Community members and RNs, including: Joe Gaucher, executive vice president of AFGE Local 0222 Council of Prisons and a corrections officer at FMC Devens; Bill Mauro, owner of Tiny's Restaurant; leaders from both the Groton and Ayer fire departments; and local teachers.
The approximately 900 signatures will be delivered to hospital president Sal Perla by a delegation of community supporters and RNs on Tuesday, January 26 at noon. The delegation will gather just outside the main entrance to the hospital on at 11:45 a.m. to meet with members of the media who wish to learn more about this issue [full text of the petition included at the end of this advisory].
Management's decision to cut staff — which came just three months after the nurses and hospital settled their first-ever contract — was announced in January. Management plans to eliminate one RN from the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. shift seven days a week even though data provided by management shows that over the past two years the average number of patients coming to the ED each day has remained constant. According to the MNA's estimates, the cuts will result in the remaining nurses seeing an increase in their patient assignments of between 25 to 33 percent at any moment, as there are currently four RNs scheduled during part of that 12-hour period and three during others.
"The RNs of NVMC are, and always will be, entirely dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the community," said Fran Kraska, RN and co-chair of the nurses' MNA bargaining unit, "I think that's why the public support has been so quick and strong."
Most signers are from local communities served by NVMC. They include RNs and paramedics at Boston Med Flight, a health care organization that regularly transports patients from the ED. The petition gathering was also aided by other area first responders, including paramedics, police officers and firefighters.
"As the State Senator who represents many communities that Nashoba Valley Medical Center serves, I am deeply concerned that just a month after the nurses at NVMC settled a contract that involved 16 months of bargaining, Nashoba Valley Medical Center has decided to lay off nursing staff, and in the emergency department of all places," said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), who represents 14 communities, including Harvard, Littleton, Ayer, and Shirley. "The elimination of a 12-hour nursing shift every day in the ER is likely to have a dramatic impact on the timeliness of care that patients receive. I hope that the executives at NVMC, and Steward Healthcare, will listen to their community and reconsider their decision."
"Nurses are vital to the operation of any medical facility," said Steve Tulli, president of the Ayer Shirley Regional Education Association, Inc. "But, in particular, the nurses in the ED at Nashoba have served the students in our local communities … tending to their injuries resulting from athletic competitions and other school activities. At this critical time, it is imperative that staffing be adequate. "
Audra Sprague, emergency department RN, added, "The amount of time RNs will have to spend with individual patients and their families will decrease. Transfers to other facilities are going to increase."
"The nurses have always worked hard to keep the wait time short for our ED patients," Sprague continued. "Now, with these cuts, we will not be able to maintain that standard no matter how hard we work. We just hope and pray that this will not negatively affect the community's perception of the hospital."
Joe Gaucher, executive vice president of AFGE Local 0222 Council of Prisons and a corrections officer at FMC Devens, expressed his concern over the cuts as well. "My fellow corrections officers and I are very concerned about the nursing cuts in the ER at Nashoba Valley Medical Center. That's the hospital nearest to us and we very often need to take inmates to a hospital for emergency care. When that happens, it's imperative that our inmates are seen and treated as quickly as possible so as to reduce the potential safety risk to the greater community. We are very concerned that fewer nurses will mean longer wait times in the ED."
Full text of the petition:
We Support Nashoba Valley Medical Center
Stop the Cuts to Our Community's Emergency Room
As community members, we are saddened and upset by planned cut backs in NVMC's Emergency Department.
NVMC is a valued and vital institution in this community. Elimination of a 12 hour (9am. to 9pm.) nursing shift seven days a week in the Emergency Room is a dramatic change: According to nurses at the hospital, from 9am to 9pm currently there are four RNs part of the time, and there are three during the others. Eliminating a staff shift while the number of patients is constant creates a whopping 25% to 33% increase in the number of patients under each RN's care at any moment.
NVMC already transports away to other hospitals too many patients who could be with adequate staff and would prefer to be treated in their local community hospital.
We support the hospital's caregivers, who will do what is in their power to maintain quality of care. But they shouldn't have to struggle to do so under increasingly difficult circumstances. We urge you to reverse this decision.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses' union in the United States with more than 170,000 members from coast to coast.