News & Events

Hospital, union, clash over policy (DS)

Some patients wait in hallways to help free up beds for others

Note From David:

The story in today’s Telegram about the hallway situation at St. Vincent was terrible.  They interviewed the patient who said it was great.  We need to have folks sumbit comments today to go with the story.  I am working on the flyer and ad today.  This is what happens when members leak stories when we aren’t ready. 



WORCESTER — The union representing nurses at St. Vincent Hospital was preparing yesterday to file a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department over the hospital’s decision to "board" certain patients in hallways when the hospital is busy.

Nurses believe the practice is unsafe and a violation of their working conditions, according to David J. Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. On Tuesday, the first patient moved to a hallway spot.

"We’ve been trying to encourage them not to do this," Mr. Schildmeier said of hospital officials. "They did it."

The issue stems from a state Department of Public Health policy that took effect in January and prohibits hospitals from diverting ambulances to other facilities, both sides said. The policy has implications for how hospitals handle patients who need to move from the emergency room to hospital beds.

St. Vincent Hospital has communicated extensively with nurses and opened up additional beds, but it has decided that patients who have been discharged and are waiting to go home could be boarded in hallways when necessary to open up beds, said hospital spokesman Dennis L. Irish.

"What we did yesterday for the first time, again exhausting all other possibilities, we took one of those patients who had been discharged, put him in a chair in the hallway and put an ill patient from the emergency room and put them in that bed," Mr. Irish said.

The patient at the center of the dispute expressed some surprise at the furor.

"What’s the big deal?" said John A. Ozaniak of Wilsonville, Conn., who went to St. Vincent after a heart attack over the weekend and underwent surgery to implant three stents Monday.

Mr. Ozaniak said a nurse asked him Tuesday if he would be willing to move to a chair in the hallway so his room could be freed up for another patient. Mr. Ozaniak, whose name and phone number were provided by the hospital, said he sat in the hall for a couple of hours, ate lunch and then changed clothes in a room when his family arrived to take him home.

"I was reading the paper, watching the scenery go by," Mr. Ozaniak said yesterday as he recuperated at home. "It made no difference to me."

The nurses and hospital officials disputed yesterday whether the hospital has other options available to prevent "boarding" in hallways. A group of about 20 nurses yesterday asked to meet with the hospital’s president and chief nursing officer. Mr. Irish said they were turned away because the officials were in other meetings.