News & Events

Cape Cod Hospital to Layoff 60 RNs

Decision Comes at a Time When Staffing Ratios Are Woefully Inadequate

At a time when registered nurses staffing levels at Cape Cod Hospital are woefully inadequate, Cape Cod Hospital management has announced the unprecedented layoff of 60 registered nurses at the facility, a decision that nurses believe will have both immediate and long term implications for the safety and quality of patient care at the 225-bed hospital.

“We are appalled at this decision and concerned for health and safety of our patients should the hospital follow through with its commitment to displace these valuable nurses,” said Marilyn Rouette, a nurse in the case management department and the co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s local bargaining unit. “While other hospitals in Massachusetts are doing everything they can to recruit nurses, our administrators are laying them off, and they are doing it at a time when RN-to-patient ratios are poor and, in many cases, dangerous.”

The layoff is the result of a decision by management to eliminate a popular and successful weekend staffing plan, which provided nurses who agreed to work weekend shifts with a higher rate of pay. The program was instituted several years ago, specifically to address chronic staffing shortages for weekend shifts. A total of 60 nurses are involved in the program. Under the plan, the weekend nurses are being laid off and given the option of applying for open positions in the facility, at dramatically lower pay. For example, a nurse who decides to take another position in the hospital could see his or her pay drop by as much as $13 per hour.

The announcement of the layoff comes at a time when the nurses and hospital management are in the midst of negotiations over a new contract. The current contract is set to expire on March 1st. Talks began last July 18, with more than 20 sessions held to date. The key issue in the negotiations has been staffing conditions at the facility. RN staffing ratios at the facility are well below what is recommended to maintain patient safety, and, in fact, nurse staffing levels often don’t even meet the hospital’s own inappropriate staffing guidelines. The hospital had originally acknowledged the problem and had engaged in more than seven months of negotiations with the nurses to develop a more acceptable staffing plan.

“This administration has led us on for months, giving us the impression that they were serious about addressing our staffing crisis,” Rouette added. “Now, without warning, they are taking steps to devastate the nursing program at Cape Cod Hospital and they are proposing to do it as we are heading into the tourist season, our busiest time of year.”

In announcing the nursing job cuts, the hospital cited financial losses for the first quarter of the year.

The nurses point out that the losses are primarily the result of a series of poor decisions by new management at the hospital, including the inability to retain relationships with key physician groups, which has resulted in a reduction in admissions to the hospital.

“Now they are asking patients and nurses to bear the burden of their ineptitude and their mismanagement,” Rouette said. “The fact is, if this hospital wants to improve its performance, the best way to do it is to improve the quality of nursing care.”

She added, “This is a shortsighted solution to this problem that will only force the Cape Cod Hospital RNs into the open arms of all of other hospitals that will be thrilled to have them. Someone needs to look at the CCH decision makers; maybe that’s where the reduction in force should start.”