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St. Marys-Corwin RNs Call for Sufficient Food for Patients and Staff

Press Release, 7/19/12

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Registered nurses are calling on the Centura Office of Compliance and the board of Catholic Health Initiatives, owners of St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center, to remedy problems related to nutrition services at the hospital, the National Nurses Organizing Committee announced today.
They say the current food situation does not support the hospital’s mission statement to “extend the healing ministry of Christ by caring for those who are ill and by nurturing the health of the people in our communities.”
The cafeteria was cited by the department of health in December 2011 for eight alleged critical incidents. Nurses have stated that they will call upon the community to help by donating food at a food drive in front of the hospital if administration is not more proactive in implementing a longer-term remedy to this situation in a timelier manner.  

Nurses believe that administration was aware they were going public with the issue. Today, after four months of waiting for a response and moments before issuing a press release, hospital management sent an email stating that additional box lunches would be available in one of the units for night admissions.
 
“While we appreciate management’s response to our concerns by making additional food available at night, it falls short of a real solution and is impractical,” said Brenda Gray, an RN who works in the endoscopy unit. “To obtain the box lunch, a nurse will have to obtain a voucher, leave their patients on their own unit, and walk to another unit, (cardiac telemetry),  to trade the voucher in for a boxed lunch. Gray was one of the nurses who initially delivered the list of concerns and remedies to management in March.
 
Nurses delivered a petition to Jennifer Gomez, south state facility corporate responsibility and privacy officer, and members of the CHI Board.  More than 100 nurses, doctors, ancillary hospital staff, and patient visitors are calling for five specific remedies:
 
·        Keeping the cafeteria and/or other vendors open, on a limited basis—through all shifts in order to provide fresh, nutritious food;
·        Allow RNs to request appropriate and sufficient healthy snacks for their patients, as determined by the nurses, based on needs of their patients;
·        Adequate RN-to-patient staffing to enable nurses to take meal breaks for their own health and well-being;
·        Ensure transparency of critical incidents cited by the health department related to the hospital cafeteria to improve accountability and protect the safety of patients, staff and visitors.
 
Nurses delivered the same list of issues with remedies to Rob Ryder, CEO, on March 19.  He did not respond to the nurses but forwarded the letter to the chief nursing officer who advised nurses that a committee was being considered to study nutrition services and they would be invited to participate.  The RNs felt that patients couldn’t wait for a committee to study the situation.
 
“Committees are the graveyards of good ideas – where the hearts and souls of nurses as patient advocates are buried under red tape and excuses,” said Judy Clark, an RN who works on the heart monitor unit. “I’ve had to beg and barter to get one extra applesauce for my patients, and even worse, I’ve had to ask visitors to go to the convenience store to pick up peanut butter for their diabetic family member. Other nurses have shared their own food with their patients.”
 
“There have been times when we can’t find ‘Thickit’, a product we use to mix in with food for patients who have swallowing issues,” according to Brenda Gray, RN who works in endoscopy.   “Having more food for patients is a welcome change and the box lunches are a good start, but they need to be made available on the unit in addition to basic snacks such as applesauce, peanut butter and crackers.
 
We don’t believe its right to make patients or staff wait any longer for these issues to be remedied. We assessed the situation long ago and provided a list of reasonable remedies. We don’t believe it’s asking too much to have good food at the hospital, or an adequately run cafeteria – this is a hospital, after all.”
 
“Surely, one of the largest Catholic hospital chains in the country can do better for our patients and the staff who work 12 or more hour-long shifts without meal breaks because of short staffing,” said Pat Curran, an RN who works in the interventional radiology unit. “Nurses are asking for consistency by SMC with Centura’s integrity standards, which the RNs are required to sign as part of our commitment to provide a superior patient and resident experience.”

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