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Sparrow nurses allege unsafe staffing situations; patient care at issue at Lansing hospital

Lansing State Journal, 10/22/10

By Melissa Domsic
Lansing State Journal
October 22, 2010

Hospital workers union files complaints with state

Nurses at Sparrow Hospital are alleging in complaints filed with the state that the Lansing facility is understaffed and jeopardizing patient care.

Members of the Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital submitted a report Thursday to the Michigan Department of Community Health detailing what it says are hundreds of instances of unsafe staffing situations.

Hospital officials would not comment on specific allegations but said they are trying to negotiate with the union to increase staffing.

The union has been in contract negotiations with the hospital since Aug. 19. The current three-year agreement expires Oct. 31.

"At Sparrow there have been reports of patient falls, medicines that have been delivered late, call bells that can't be answered and assessments - which are critical in making sure patients are safe - are delayed because nurses do not have enough resources," said Jeffrey Breslin, a registered nurse at Sparrow and president of the union and Michigan Nurses Association.

The union represents about 2,100 professional associates at Lansing-based Sparrow Health System, including nurses, pharmacists, social workers, medical technicians and other specialties.

Sparrow officials said patient admissions increased 14 percent from 28,740 in 2005 to 32,786 in 2009. It has 617 acute care beds and 1,900 registered nurses.

Sparrow spokesman John Berg said the hospital has not laid off any nurses or made other adjustments. But Sparrow hopes staff increases will be included in a new labor contract.

Focused on care

"We are focused on providing quality care and guarding our patients' safety and associates' safety," he said.

Berg pointed to a recently formed team of employees to help lift and transport patients within the hospital as an example. And, he cited Sparrow's inclusion in the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program in December 2009. That came after its nursing care was rated among the best in the country.

But union officials said staffing has been a growing problem.

Nurses at Sparrow Hospital are alleging in complaints filed with the state that the Lansing facility is understaffed and jeopardizing patient care.

Members of the Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital submitted a report Thursday to the Michigan Department of Community Health detailing what it says are hundreds of instances of unsafe staffing situations.

Hospital officials would not comment on specific allegations but said they are trying to negotiate with the union to increase staffing.

The union has been in contract negotiations with the hospital since Aug. 19. The current three-year agreement expires Oct. 31.

"At Sparrow there have been reports of patient falls, medicines that have been delivered late, call bells that can't be answered and assessments - which are critical in making sure patients are safe - are delayed because nurses do not have enough resources," said Jeffrey Breslin, a registered nurse at Sparrow and president of the union and Michigan Nurses Association.

The union represents about 2,100 professional associates at Lansing-based Sparrow Health System, including nurses, pharmacists, social workers, medical technicians and other specialties.

Sparrow officials said patient admissions increased 14 percent from 28,740 in 2005 to 32,786 in 2009. It has 617 acute care beds and 1,900 registered nurses.

Sparrow spokesman John Berg said the hospital has not laid off any nurses or made other adjustments. But Sparrow hopes staff increases will be included in a new labor contract.

Focused on care

"We are focused on providing quality care and guarding our patients' safety and associates' safety," he said.

Berg pointed to a recently formed team of employees to help lift and transport patients within the hospital as an example. And, he cited Sparrow's inclusion in the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program in December 2009. That came after its nursing care was rated among the best in the country.

But union officials said staffing has been a growing problem.

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