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Lawrence General Hospital Announces Layoffs, Service Closures and Patient Care Restructuring…

Massachusetts Nurses Assoc. Press Release Press Release, 9/24/12

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Nurses Hope to Convince Management to Work with Them to Ensure Safe Patient Care
Vow to Warn Public of Changes that Compromise their Safety


LAWRENCE, MA – The nurses of Lawrence General Hospital are outraged by a recent decision from hospital management to lay off staff, close services and restructure how nurses deliver patient care at the facility, particularly at a time when nurses have been struggling with inadequate RN staffing levels that compromise their ability to deliver the care their patients deserve.  

On September 14 hospital management informed the nurses union of their intention to layoff as many as 15 nurses, including eliminating all nurse educators, closing their short stay unit and outsourcing the hospital’s lactation (breast feeding) consulting services to the local community health center.
The short stay unit, which cares for patients undergoing minor invasive procedures, such as cardiac catheterizations, ultrasound procedures and interventional radiology procedures that do not require an overnight stay, as well as patients undergoing transfusions and outpatient infusions for chronic conditions such as chron’s disease or multiple sclerosis by staff who specialize in the care of those patients, will be disbanded. Those patients will now be moved to already overburdened and understaffed medical and surgical floors where nurses are unprepared to deliver the same level of patient care and where these patients, many of whom are immune compromised, will be exposed to infectious diseases and other health hazards. It is important to note that many of these changes violate some of the hospital’s own policies.

In addition, the hospital has recently closed beds in its intensive care unit, decreasing critical care beds to nine and additionally using non critical beds to care for critically ill patients where nurses are unable to provide the same standard of care these patients require. That change, combined with the recently announced changes, has raised the ire of a number of nurses and has resulted in the filing of more than 19 official reports of unsafe staffing conditions at the hospital on specific shifts where the nurses reported that the safety of patients was placed in jeopardy.

Management has also informed the union that this is only the beginning of their plans to redesign patient care delivery at the hospital, and in the coming months they plan to convert a 40 bed medical surgical unit into a telemetry unit for providing care to patients requiring more complex cardiac monitoring, with no commitment to add or train staff to work on that unit.   

 “Nurses are up in arms over these changes and are deeply concerned about their ability to deliver safe patient care,” said Patty Rogers Sullivan, RN, chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United. “They are making dramatic changes to how care is delivered at this hospital without discussing or reviewing these changes with the nurses who deliver that care.”

The union has filed a class action grievance on behalf of the nurses impacted by these changes, citing the hospital’s failure to provide the minimum two weeks notice required under the union contract. The MNA has also requested a copy of the long-term plan announced by management for the redesign of the nurses’ work so that they can offer their opinion on the safety of this plan for patients. The nurses also want to make sure that any nurse affected by the layoff has the right to bump into a new position with appropriate orientation and training to care for patients on that unit as defined in their contract.

“We are alarmed and outraged that these decisions have been made without our input, and that there has been no guarantee that staffing will be improved on units where all these patients are being moved, and/or that those nurses will have the resources and education they need to maintain the quality and safety of patient care,” Rogers-Sullivan said. The nurses are also concerned that the layoffs have been targeted at the most experienced nurses and at nurses who are active in, and leaders of, the union. The MNA is exploring whether or not the hospitals’ action warrants a charge of unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board.  
In response to the changes, the union has called for an emergency membership meeting for Wednesday, September 26 at 5 p.m. to brief the nurses, and to plan next steps in their efforts to educate the public about these potentially dangerous changes at the hospital.

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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses union in the United States with more than 150,000 members from coast to coast.

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