McLaren Lapeer Nurses, Community Tell CEO: Put Patients Before Profits
Nurses say hospital isn’t helping them solve patient safety concerns
LAPEER – More than 100 registered nurses from McLaren Lapeer Region and community members rallied Monday to demand that hospital CEO Bart Buxton fix the chronic understaffing that can put their patients’ safety at risk. The nurses want to be able to provide safe, quality care to every patient and have been asking the administration to solve serious nurse staffing problems for months.
“The community deserves to know that the nurses have been sounding the alarm about patient safety at the hospital and the problems are not being solved,” said Cheryl Weston, RN, one of 235 registered nurses at McLaren Lapeer Region. “It’s a horrible feeling to go to work not knowing whether that people’s lives are in our hands but we may not have as many nurses as we should to take care of them. It is not safe to balance the budget at the expense of patient care and it’s not fair to our community that depends on us.”
The hospital, part of the growing Flint-based McLaren Health Care system that brings in $2.6 billion in net revenue each year, is the primary provider of health care services to Lapeer County and the surrounding area.
“We just want McLaren’s actions to start matching their words when it comes to making sure nurses can provide safe, quality care for every patient,” said Sara Maddox, RN, an emergency room nurse. “We’re the only Level 2 Trauma Center in the area and we need to be able to handle multiple car accidents and everything else that comes our way. As a nurse, I am asking our hospital to give us the staffing we need to ensure we can save lives and protect our community.”
McLaren Lapeer Region nurses are sometimes forced to work short-staffed despite informing their managers that they consider the situation unsafe for patients. The documented effects of these incidents at the hospital include patient falls, late or missed medications, medication errors, delayed blood infusions, long wait times for care, inadequate monitoring, patients not being turned in their beds, and patients not receiving adequate education and instructions before being sent home.
Years of scientific research show that understaffing of nurses can lead to increased complications in hospitals, including preventable infections, falls, and even deaths. (Studies can be found at www.minurses.org/safepatientcare.)
Unfortunately, hospital administration has established a disrespectful environment toward nurses and their advocacy for their patients. Earlier this year, a federal arbitrator ruled that McLaren had improperly cut the pay of 51 nurses and ordered McLaren to pay them about $45,000 in back pay. McLaren, facing a trial, also settled the nurses’ Unfair Labor Practice charge over retaliating against nurses and refusing to give the union information.
Just recently, Weston, who has worked at the hospital for 13 years and is head of the nurses’ union there, was disciplined in relation to expressing her concerns about patient safety issues. The Michigan Nurses Association, which represents the nurses, has asked the National Labor Relations Board to intervene in that case.
The nurses say the staffing problems at the hospital are longstanding, and the administration's refusal to budge has continued during weeks of contract negotiations.
Hundreds of people have already signed an online petition at www.SupportMcLarenNurses.org urging CEO Bart Buxton to put patients before profits and solve the understaffing problem at the hospital.
Visitors to the site can also read comments submitted by petition signers, including this one by Gerald Lennox of Fenton:
“We (current and potential) patients consider the hospital to be a haven of rest, care and cure and not a financial institution concerned primarily with return on investment. When my wife Annie was in McLaren hospital for carotid artery surgery, I experienced first hand the effects of under-staffed floors and overburdened nurses. The nurses KNOW what it takes to provide what patients need and deserve.”