Nurses know better than anyone that even in the midst of the joyful holiday season, loved ones, friends and neighbors all too often get sick and require hospital care, which is why the MNA/NNU RNs who work at Leominster Hospital plan to hold a “candlelight vigil to protect patient safety” on Wednesday, Dec 10.
“We will be outside Wednesday night, with candles in hand, because we want to remind the local community that we are completely dedicated to keeping Leominster Hospital patients safe and healthy,” said Natalie Pereira, RN and chairperson of the nurse’ MNA/NNU bargaining unit at the hospital, “and that we will fight to protect patient care services during the holiday day season and year-round.”
The vigil is the latest step in the nurses’ ongoing fight to have management reverse its short-sighted decisions to cut nursing staff, increase nurses’ patient assignments, and to merge essential hospital services — decisions that were made only for the purposes of increasing revenue in an already profitable hospital.
The nurses will also be holding a toy drive during the vigil. All collected toys will be donated to Ginny’s Helping Hands in Leominster and will then be given to local children in need so that they too can have a joyful holiday season. “We aren’t just nurses who coincidently work in Leominster,” added Pereira. “We are part of this community, and we are dedicated to supporting it in as many ways as possible — whether that means holding a toy drive, a food drive, or a candlelight vigil that draws public attention to the issue of patient safety inside the hospital.”
What: Candlelight Vigil to Protect Patient Safety
Where: 60 Hospital Road, Leominster MA
When: Wednesday, Dec 10 from 4 – 6 p.m.
Who: Leominster Hospital RNs and their friends, families, neighbors, and supporters
Background: Hospital management recently began laying off emergency department RNs as part of the dangerous cost-cutting plan it announced nearly seven months ago. In addition to reducing RN staffing in the ED, the hospital plans to increase nurses’ patient assignments on the night shift from five to six, and to merge the pediatric, labor and delivery, and maternity units — a first-of-its-kind move for a Massachusetts hospital and one that goes against what the professional standards for maternity and pediatric care show is best. Nurses are also concerned about how proposed cuts in support staff will affect the care of ED-based psychiatric patients. All of these changes will lead to longer wait times for patients, more boarding of patients, and the likelihood that a patient will suffer a complication because of these dramatic new delays in care.
Since these plans were announced in the spring, nurses have been unyielding in their efforts to get the hospital to reconsider its decisions: from meeting/negotiating with management and leafleting the community, to organizing a petition campaign and sitting down with elected officials. Last month, the RNs held a highly-attended and very successful informational picket, yet Health Alliance CEO Deborah Weymouth has continued to refuse to meet with the nurses to hear their concerns. Instead, Weymouth has charged ahead with the hospital’s plan, a plan that the nurses believe will degrade the care for every patient in the hospital.