Plan to Cut Staff Comes as the ED Nurses Struggle to Confront a Growing Flu Epidemic and After NWH and Partners has Posted a Healthy Profit in Recent Years
Wellesley, Mass. The registered nurses of Newton Wellesley Hospital represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU), recently began a leafleting/advertising campaign to alert the public about a potentially dangerous plan by Partners Health Care, the multi-billion dollar owner of our hospital, to reduce RN staffing levels and increase nurses’ patient assignments in the facility’s busy emergency department, which the nurses believe will impact the quality and safety of care. The cuts come as the facility continues to make a healthy profit and the census in the ED has increased over the past year, and as the facility struggles to cope with a growing flu epidemic.
Newton Wellesley Hospital operates a busy and efficient emergency department that treats more than 58,000 patients a year who are experiencing a variety of illnesses and injuries, many of them potentially life threatening, where timely care is essential.
According to Laurie Andersen, a longtime ED nurse at the facility and chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit, “The patients of our hospital have been fortunate as, until now, our emergency department was staffed with a safe complement of expert nurses, with safe patient loads that allowed us to provide the timely care you expect and deserve. Unfortunately, our administration has announced a plan to reduce the number of nurses on staff, cutting a least one nurse per shift, which will increase the number of patients assigned to each nurse. This plan will decrease our ability to be flexible and efficient in providing the safe patient care the public needs.”
According to data gathered by the nurses, visits to the emergency department have increased by 2 percent in the past year, and in recent months, the hospital has been flooded with patients visiting the ED, which is being exacerbated by an increase in patients suffering from flu like illnesses.
“Even without these cuts we have had several days where we are boarding patients, including intensive care patients, in the emergency department because we have no beds available to move patients to, and we have more patients coming in our doors all the time. We have had to initiate care for sick emergency patients young and old in the hallways to make sure that they receive safe care.” Andersen explained. “On numerous occasions we have been on ‘Code Orange’ which means we have no inpatient beds but the Emergency department never closes or turns away sick patients. We are a busy hospital and when inpatient beds are full, the emergency department must continue to care for those patients as well as caring for all other sick or injured patients from our community. The nurses at Newton-Wellesley want to provide excellent, timely safe care to our patients and that is why we are so concerned about these cuts.”
According to official financial reports, these changes are being proposed at a time when the hospital posted profits in excess of $27 million and when Partners Health Care, the corporate owner of our hospital, recorded profits of more than $700 million over the last two years.
The nurses have been actively engaged in efforts to convince management to maintain the current staffing levels. More than 85 percent of the ED nurses signed a petition last year opposing this plan, and earlier this year more than 20 nurses attended a meeting with management to speak out against the plan and what it would mean for the safety of our patients. Beginning last week, the nurses began an effort to hand out leaflets to the public explaining their concerns, and this week the MNA/NNU has placed ads in local papers about the situation. The flyers and the ads ask for community members to call the NWH President to ask him to maintain the current staffing levels at the hospital. For a copy of the leaflet, contact David Schildmeier at firstname.lastname@example.org.