Press Release

Nurses Speak Out Thursday On Hospital Staffing

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2011

Nurses To Alert Public to Patient Care Issues at Corpus Christi Medical Center
RN staffing for newborns, emergency care the focus

Registered nurses, members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas/National Nurses United -- the largest professional association and union of registered nurses in the country, with 170,000 members -- will hold a press conference outside Bay Area Medical Center/The Heart Hospital on Thursday, October 6th from Noon-1p to call attention to staffing issues and patient care protection at Corpus Christi Medical Center (CCMC).  There are 520 RNs on staff at CCMC.

At the center of the controversy is hospital management’s persistent refusal to reach an agreement with registered nurses to resolve staffing and other issues linked to protecting patient care.  “We’ve tried several times to meet with hospital management to make recommendations and propose solutions to these staffing issues.   These are not marginal activities but impact care for patients in emergency departments and in the units that care for newborns.  What could be more important?  The responsible thing to do is to reach a solution without delay,” said Fred Flores, RN.  Flores and other RNs have met with CCMC management four times to discuss the concerns of RNs.

What: Press Conference  -- Voicing concerns over staffing levels and patient safety in the Nursery and Emergency Departments at Corpus Christi Medical Center
Where: Williams Drive entrance of Bay Area Medical Center/The Heart Hospital, 7101 S. Padre Island Drive, Corpus Christi  
When: Thursday, October 6   Noon – 1p

Since October 2010, 84 formal complaints by the nurses – “Assignment Despite Objection” (ADO) —have been filed by RNs at CCMC, reflecting staffing and other patient safety issues in both the Nursery and Emergency Departments at all CCMC facilities.  ADOs are filed when nurses are given assignments that they believe in their professional judgment are unsafe and could put patients at risk.  In addition to lodging these formal complaints, RNs have met on several occasions with hospital management in an attempt to address these concerns.   But management has neither met nor taken any action.

In the Neonatal Units, the RNs are concerned about staffing that is at a level higher than national standards dictate.  In these Units, stability is key to maintaining appropriate health conditions for fragile, vulnerable infants.  The national standard calls for one RN assigned to every five or six babies in good health (1:5 or 1:6 ratio), with a lower assignment ratio if the baby is sicker.   Also per national standards, Charge RNs are not to be given a patient assignment as this would constitute an overload.

In the nursery at CCMC, RNs are frequently assigned six or more newborns, including to sicker babies requiring more intensive care.  Charge RNs regularly are assigned patient duties beyond their scope.  When Charge RNs leave the unit to attend newborn deliveries, for example, their patient assignment is shifted to the remaining RNs who already have full assignments.  

In the Emergency Departments, RNs are concerned over several issues related to patient safety.  One relates to the hospital’s implementation of a new “immediate bedding” policy that requires patients be put in a bed if one is available.  This is inconsistent with national triage standards requiring that sickest patients are seen first.  In practice, if beds are full and a new patient arrives who is much sicker—chest pains or a stroke, as examples—that patient must wait until a bed is available.  

Yet another issue at CCMC pertains to staffing levels at the two free-standing Emergency Departments – Northwest and Northshore.  Though the hospital holds out that both are full-service facilities ready to care for patients with critical health issues, they are staffed at higher ratios than those attached to hospitals.  RNs at both locations are concerned about resultant patient care.  

Studies have shown a correlation between low staffing ratios and better patient outcomes.   These conditions at CCMC cry out for some immediate attention and negotiation of solutions, say nurses.  

“There is broad agreement among RNs that Corpus Christi Medical Center needs to address staffing, especially in neonatal and emergency departments.  The existing systems are simply not enough.  We have said it over and over again.  We are saying to  management-- meet with us, negotiate an agreement that adopts the national standards, that’s what’s best for patients.  It’s not going to go away.” said Anna Springer, RN, and a member of the NNOC-TX contract negotiation team.