Nurses from the neonatal intensive care unit almost brought the room to tears describing the frustration they feel caring for the sickest babies, with families in the worst crisis in their lives, and not being able to comfort them. They told of babies coming back into the unit post discharge because they didn't receive the care they needed. As one nurse put it, "I love my job, but lately, I feel like a failure every day. You should be ashamed of yourselves," she told management.
So how did the hospital respond to the nurses' plea for help? Management cut the staff even further, implementing two more rounds of layoffs on both campuses.
In their call for safer staffing levels, the nurses point to dozens of studies published in the most prestigious medical journals that clearly demonstrate that the RN-to-patient ratios the nurses are seeking not only prevent complications and save lives, but safe staffing can also save millions of dollars. Again, the nurses point to the recently assessed penalties from Medicare for UMMMC due to poor care, which could have been avoided with appropriate staffing in place.
"We are appalled that with all the data supporting our plea for safe staffing, the management team at UMass Memorial has opted to disregard the numerous studies and directed the nurses to 'do more with less.' Just since this most recent round of layoffs, I have received dozens of official reports of unsafe staffing from nurses in the Maternity Center, the NICU, the Emergency Dept and the Med/Surg units," said Colleen Wolfe, co-chair of the MNA local bargaining unit representing 1,000 nurses on the Memorial and Hahnemann hospital campuses. "Patients are at increased risk and are indeed suffering preventable infections such as MRSA, and pneumonia. They are also at increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks and post operative complications. Laboring mothers in our high risk tertiary center are not receiving the focused attention they need from their nurse. This puts mothers and babies in further jeopardy. We are here today to tell you that we are in trouble! There are not enough of us to safely care for our patients! We need safe staffing."Adding insult to injury, in addition to forcing nurses to work under increasingly stressful and dangerous conditions, UMMMC management is also seeking to gut the nurse' benefits package. Once again UMMMC wants to cut the nurses pension benefit, an issue that drove the University-campus nurses to wage a five-hour strike back in 2007. Management also wants to increase the cost of the nurses' health insurance and to cut their time off benefits.