Proposed Staffing Cuts and Planned Increase in Nurses’ Patient Assignments Will Degrade the Quality and Safety of Patient Care at Leominster Hospital for All Patients
Meeting with Management Scheduled for Monday, June 23 to Review the Plan
The registered nurses who work at UMass/Health Alliance Leominster Hospital, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, are making public their strong opposition to the recently announced plan by hospital management to cut nursing and support staff, and to reorganize patient care services – a plan the nurses believe undermine the quality and safety of patient care at the hospital, degrading the care for every patient entering the hospital.
This is the latest round of staffing cuts by UMass Memorial Health Care, which has wreaked havoc throughout the entire UMass system, following the several rounds of layoff and service closures to the UMass Memorial facilities in Worcester, cuts to the urgent care center and cancer center on the Burbank campus, and layoffs of staff and poor patient care conditions at the Marlborough Hospital campus, which resulted in 90 percent of those nurses signing a petition they delivered to management demanding immediate action to improve dangerous patient care conditions
The reorganization of the Leominster Hospital camps is a deliberate attempt to cut costs by creating a lesser standard of care for patients – at management is not just laying off staff, but they are also forcing existing staff to care for more patients at one time, which the medical research shows will mean increased risk of injury or harm for patients, delays in care, longer hospital stays, and even the increased risk of death for patients. .
“The nurses at Leominster Hospital are proud of the care we provide,” said Theresa Love, a member the nurses MNA/NNU negotiating committee who works in the hospital’s maternity unit. “Our patients benefit from the fact that right now, our hospital has the best RN staffing levels of any hospital in the UMass system. We also have the best outcomes for patients of any hospital in the UMass system with far fewer readmissions for patients, which, because hospitals are penalized financially for readmissions, means these staffing levels save the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars. If this plan is enacted, it can only result in more readmissions, poorer care and the loss of valuable health care dollars.” Other UMass Memorial facilities rank near the bottom in the state for the systems poor record of patient readmissions.
The hospital’s plan calls for increasing the patient assignments for nurses on the night shift from five to six patients, which the research shows increases the risk of death for all those patients by 7 – 14 percent.
Management is also proposing cuts to ED staffing, which will mean longer wait times for patients, more boarding of patients, and the likelihood that a patient could suffer a complication because of these delays in care.
The hospital is dramatically changing the pediatric and maternity staffing, merging these units, and cross training staff which goes against what the professional standards for maternity and pediatric care show is best for these patients. The nurses are also concerned about what management has communicated to DPH about these changes, which has the authority to approve them. The nurses have made an official request for that communication with DPH, so that nurses can ensure DPH has a complete story of the impact of the changes, and so that the nurses and their union can have input in the approval process. The nurses are hoping to receive that information at meeting on Monday with management.
Nurses are also concerned about the staff reductions, not only of RNs but of support staff in the ED for the care of psychiatric patients. When UMass closed the psych unit at Burbank Hospital in 2010, they promised the DPH and the community that they were increasing staff and resources in our emergency department. While they never fully implemented those changes, they are now undermining the staffing levels they currently have, further eroding care for the mentally ill in Northern Worcester County.
“We still don’t know the full extent of the other staff layoffs, “ Love added. “ While they propose to eliminate 20 FTEs of RN staff, we are waiting to learn how many other valuable support staff will be eliminated. All of these changes have the same impact, fewer caregivers responsible for more duties and care for a larger population of patients.”
While the layoff impacts 20 FTEs, the impact on actual nurses will be much greater, and with bumping based on seniority, dozens more nurses will be impacted, further disrupting the care and morale through the entire institution.
The nurses outraged by this proposal and are committed to doing whatever they can to convince management to change their plan, and they intend to involve the public in this effort, as they have the most to lose if this plan goes through. They could lose their very lives.
The nurses are considering filing unfair labor practice charges against the hospital for failing to provide them with the consultant’s report, upon which these decisions were based.
The nurses, not the hospital, will be held legally accountable for the care their patients receive or don’t receive as a result of these changes. A nurse could lose his or her license to practice nursing should something untoward happen to their patients as a result of these staffing levels, and given that, they believe they have a right to know how and why these decisions were made. The administration continues to refuse to share the consultant’s report.
The nurses are meeting with hospital management at 1 p.m. on Monday, June 23 to discuss the proposed changes and to receive, they hope, information they have requested about the plan. A broader campaign to educated the public about this plan, and its impact on the patients of Leominster Hospital is also being developed by the nurses