Check out this amazing op ed written by Morton Hospital pediatric nurse Shauna Crawley Spillane, which was published in the Taunton Gazette. The piece makes a powerful case for our campaign to save the pediatric unit at Morton Hospital, which Cerberus-Steward Health Care is proposing to close. We all need to support nurses like Shauna, and the children of Greater Taunton, by showing up and speaking out against this closing at a DPH public hearing on this issue, which will be held on April 19 at 2 p.m. at the Taunton Public Library.
GUEST OPINION: Caring for Morton Hospital’s smallest patients
By Shauna Crowley-Spillane
Posted Mar 27, 2013 @ 04:12 PM
As I write this letter, I am surrounded by my own young children’s playful laughter and I am both sad and angry for the community I have cared for over the years. This is a dark day for the families of our community.
I was naïve to think that with Steward, Morton Hospital would be given “World Class Healthcare.” However, it is with a heavy heart I regret to say just the opposite has occurred. Steward has chosen not to value and respect the well-being and safety of its youngest patients — the children of Taunton and the surrounding towns. Steward has wronged our children.
First, Steward has wronged the children by not advertising the Tufts Floating Children’s Pediatric Hospitalist Program, where a pediatric hospitalist was in-house 24 hours per day to oversee, treat and stabilize children/infants/newborns in the ER, inpatient pediatric unit and the nursery/labor and delivery unit. They have wronged the children secondly, by not enforcing the physicians to increase consultations with the pediatric hospitalists regarding the children that enter through the ER. Finally, Steward ceased the pediatric hospitalist service and now, they are trying to close the Level II, 13-bed locked inpatient pediatric unit.
Steward has creatively manipulated its statistics, claiming the pediatric unit has a census of less than 1 child per day and therefore is grounds for closing. Steward has refused to show its data that supports its claims despite the pediatric nursing staff’s repeated requests. The pediatric nurses have repeatedly corrected Steward with a 24-hour census report taken daily over the past two to three years. This unit actually takes care of an average of four children per day (up to 8 to 9 children during the winter months, busier than most community pediatric units).
The census of children in Taunton is 30 to 40 percent of the total population including the surrounding towns like Raynham, Lakeville, Middleboro, Berkley, Rehoboth, Freetown, Dighton, Brockton and Norton. With this high census, the average of four children (higher in the fall/winter months) being cared for in Morton’s pediatric unit has the potential to increase had Steward valued, advertised and encouraged our pediatric service.
Anyone who has had their child on this unit, as I too have personally experienced, or who have visited a family member or friend’s child can attest to the gold standard of care, compassion and education given to the children by the specialized nurses on this unit. Collectively, the pediatric nurses have more than 200 years of experience in pediatric nursing, board certified in pediatrics, bachelors of nursing degrees and masters in nursing specializing in pediatrics. The acuity level of children hospitalized on this unit ranges from overnight observation to borderline pediatric ICU.
For example, overnight observation is exemplified for such reasons as IV hydration or infants that parents have witnessed to either stop breathing or have had a seizure at home. The high acuity patients include 6-week-old infants with respiratory illnesses who need oxygen and are breathing too hard and too fast to feed, newborns that are having trouble withdrawing from narcotic addiction, and children in toxic shock. These are just a few examples of the different levels of care that this unit serves for the community.
Whether classified as “observation” or “inpatient” for insurance claims payment, every child matters and requires skilled pediatric nursing care. It is a shame that Morton’s current president has never witnessed the skilled nursing care the pediatric nurses provide to the broad spectrum of patients. It angers me that Steward does not share the nurses’ high value for our “little” patients. Pediatrics is our passion, and it should be Steward’s too.
To the parents and families, it is an honor to take care of your precious ones. Do not let them succeed in closing the pediatric unit because if they do, no longer will the children be close to their siblings, families, school friends and familiarity for simple recovery from procedures like tonsillectomies, appendectomies, broken arms/legs, rehydration after a stomach bug or respiratory recovery. No longer will parents be able to run home quickly to tend to siblings or other family needs.
No longer will children be able to bypass the ER and be directly admitted from the pediatrician’s office to the unit. Please help our families stay close to home with their sick child by demanding Steward keep its promise of providing “World Class Healthcare” at Morton Hospital. The excellent health care we give patients at birth-childhood here at Morton Hospital will be their foundation and therefore it is where they will seek their medical care through adulthood.
My sincerest thank you to the community.
Shauna Crowley-Spillane, MSN, RN, has been a pediatric nurse at Morton Hospital, Taunton, since 2007. She is a Marshfield resident.