Yesterday morning I was reading the Boston Globe and was very surprised when I came to page 5. There was a half page ad titled “From the Physicians of Tufts Medical Center: The Truth About Quality.” That caught my attention. The next line read, ” The leadership of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United has been impugning the patient safety and quality of care at Tufts Medical Center and other hospitals across the Bay State.” This was followed by, “WE THE DOCTORS WHO PRACTICE AT TUFTS MEDICAL CENTER every day, know that nothing could be further from the truth”.
So what was this all about. The ad continued to exalt the role of nurses and the quality of work at Tufts medical Center. What they were asking is for the nurses union to sit down and negotiate so the hospital doesn’t have a strike. When I first read it I thought, another union slam. It is not quite that. The medical administration and the MA Medical Association is trying to be nice right now. They know it isn’t going to work without the nurses. A slow down would be a potential financial disaster.
What are the nurses asking for? According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association press release, “the nurses have serious concerns about recent cuts in RN staffing levels and other changes in how they deliver care that has resulted in nurses being forced to care for more patients at one time on nearly every unit. To compensate for chronic understaffing, TMC is using mandatory overtime, and is forcing nurses to “float” from one area of the hospital to another where they might not be competent to provide appropriate care.”
The press release goes on to say, “staffing changes have caused a dramatic deterioration in both the quality of care nurses are delivering and, in some cases, has resulted in serious lapses in care. In the past 14 months alone, nurses have filed more than 600 reports of incidents that jeopardized patient care.”
On March 16, the nurses delivered a petition signed by 80% of staff RNs to the Tufts CEO protesting dangerous staffing conditions. 100s of RNSs picketed outside the facility requesting a return to safety on all hospital floors.
When I think about this ad in the Boston Globe, I wonder if the doctors understand how patient safety is compromised when the nurse -patient ratio is high. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when there is a cut in nurse staffing, then patient mortality increases. How does a hospital justify RN cuts? This translates into patients waiting to have a nurse answer a call button.
Patient safety must be of paramount concern for hospital administration. The union is not the problem here.