News & Events

Great story in Taunton Gazette About MNA/NNU Morton Hospital Nurses’ Campaign to Save Pediatrics Unit

Here’s another great story about our campaign to save the pediatric unit at Morton Hospital, which also alerts the public about the upcoming DPH hearing .

Nurses ready to fight closing of Morton Hospital’s pediatric unit

By Marc Larocque

Taunton Gazette Staff Reporter

TAUNTON – Morton Hospital nurses are mobilizing to fight against for-profit Steward Health Care’s plan to close the hospital’s 13-bed pediatric unit.

Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United are banding together, wearing stickers and displaying images of a “Save Our Pediatric Unit Teddy Bear.” Nurses are also preparing petitions and other tools to educate the public about the issue, an MMA statement said.

The action taken by the union nurses comes ahead of a scheduled Department of Public Health hearing on April 19 at 2 p.m. at the Taunton Public Library about the proposed closing of the pediatric unit.

The MMA said it believes the proposed closing is “in direct violation” of a commitment the for-profit Steward Health Care made when agreeing to buy the hospital in 2011, to not reduce or eliminate services for at least five years.

Steward is owned by the New York-based Cerberus Capital Management.

“It also goes against their stated mission of providing full service community hospitals where patients can receive care close to home in their own community,” an MMA statement said. “Now these pediatric patients will need to be shipped into Boston for care, care they have received for more than 50 years at Morton Hospital. To do this, they must go before (the Department of Public Health) for approval and a public hearing must be held, as pediatrics is considered an essential service for the community.”

In announcing the closing, the MMA said, the hospital cited the low volume of patients, stating that only one patient per day was admitted to the pediatric unit. But the MMA called it “a deliberate fabrication as there is an average of more than four patients on the unit every day,” and that a census for January was above the yearly average.

“The MNA is opposing this closure and is actively engaged in an effort to fight it, including reaching out to area policy makers and community groups to convince the DPH to not approve this closure,” the MNA said. “This is occurring when this hospital, like all Steward Hospitals, is understaffed, and where nurses on all units are struggling with often unsafe patient assignments.”

The pediatric unit is staffed with 8 registered nurses and two licensed practical nurses, most of whom have decades of experience providing care to pediatric patients, the MNA said.

 “We’re absolutely upset and angry they would consider abandoning the children of our city and surrounding communities,” said longtime Morton nurse Joyce Wilkins, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s bargaining unit.

The children cared for on this unit include kids with a number of conditions, including pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, dehydration, as well as appendicitis and a number recovering from surgical procedures, the MNA said.

“Again, this is care that can be delivered at the hospital and has been delivered at the hospital for decades, where parents can easily be with their kids through their illness,” the MNA statement said. “As Morton serves an extensive population of people of low income, to transfer these kids to Boston for the same care would provide a significant burden, as many don’t have the transportation or the resources to get into the city to visit their children.”

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