What: Candlelight Vigil Mourning UMass Memorial HealthAlliance’s intent to cut nurse staffing and jeopardize patient safety
Where: 60 Hospital Road, Leominster; on the sidewalk in front of the hospital
When: Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m.
Who: Leominster Hospital RNs and their friends, families, neighbors, and supporters
Nurses who work at the Leominster Campus of UMass Memorial HealthAlliance – Clinton Hospital, and who are members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, will hold a candlelight vigil on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. to mourn hospital management’s intent to cut nurse staffing, increase nurse-to-patient assignments, and jeopardize patient safety as a result.
Patients, neighbors, friends, and supporters, of the nurses and the hospital are expected to join in the vigil.
The vigil is being held in response to management’s recent proposals to cut key nursing positions; to increase the number of patients that a nurse may be required to care for at one time; and to force charge nurses to carry a patient assignment. The proposals from the hospital were offered as part of current contract talks between the Leominster/MNA nurses and UMass. Those talks began in late August of this year, nine sessions held so far.
The hospital’s shortsighted proposals follow nearly five years of nurse-staffing and patient-safety improvements — improvements that were secured as part of the nurses’ 2014/2015 contract win. At that time, the nurses won language that limited most nurses’ patient assignments to five; created STAT nurse positions for the purposes of responding to urgent patient needs throughout the hospital, whether due to patient care or census changes; and made it so that “charge nurses” did not carry a patient assignment, thereby allowing them to manage the overall needs of patients, nurses, and the flow on each individual floor/unit. Those changes greatly improved patient safety, patient outcomes, and nurse recruitment/retention.
The hospital is now proposing eliminating the STAT nurse position; requiring charge nurses to carry a patient assignment; and increasing nurses’ patient assignments to as many as six patients at a time.
The nurses believe these changes will result in acutely ill patients waiting longer for needed care; nurses having less time to monitor and respond to potentially life-threatening changes in their patients’ condition; and the potential for patients to suffer from a number of preventable complications. As reported by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “every additional patient assigned to an RN is associated with a 7 percent increase in the risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia, a 53 percent increase in respiratory failure, and a 17 percent increase in the risk of medical complications.”
“Five years of progress on behalf of our patients and the community,” said Natalie M. Pereira, RN and chairperson of the MNA bargaining unit at the Leominster campus, “and the first opportunity management has to undo all of that progress, they jump on it and want to eliminate our strongest patient-safety language. This proposal would bring us backwards, not move us forward at a time when patients are sicker and healthcare delivery is more complex.”
“We will fight against these proposals,” added Pereira, “for as long as it takes.”
The nurses will also be holding a toy drive during the vigil. All collected toys will be donated to the Spanish American Center and will then be given to local children in need so that they can have a joyful holiday season. Donations of new and unwrapped toys or books will be accepted at the vigil.
The next negotiation session is scheduled for Dec. 17. Both parties have agreed to have a federal mediator join them at that session and at all sessions moving forward.
i Nurse Staffing and Quality of Patient Care Robert L. Kane, MD., et al., Evidence Report/Technology Assessment for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, AHRQ Publication No. 07-E005, May. 2007