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Published: Friday, 1/11/2013

Staffs at ProMedica's Bixby, Herrick hospitals complain about long hours, patient care

BY KRIS TURNER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

To Kate LaVigne, working in the emergency department at ProMedica’s Bixby or Herrick hospitals is like living an episode of M*A*S*H.

Patients who have suffered heart attacks or strokes sometimes linger in the halls, waiting for beds to become available, she said.

Ms. LaVigne, a registered nurse who has worked at the hospitals for seven years, said patients who arrive via ambulance sometimes are kept waiting on stretchers because there’s no room to admit them. She said it’s one remedy the overworked and understaffed nurses have utilized in recent years.

“We have to decide who is the sickest,” Ms. LaVigne said.

Bixby, in Adrian, is an 88-bed, full-service hospital. Herrick, in Tecumseh, which has 25 beds, also is a full-service hospital. Nurses at both establishments have been operating without a union contract since the end of June.

The Michigan Nurses Association, the union that represents nurses at both Lenawee County facilities, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 2. The complaint states that Toledo-based ProMedica is not bargaining in good faith and has retaliated against employees who voiced concerns about unsafe working conditions.

Ms. LaVigne, other nurses at the hospitals, and a representative of the Michigan Nurses Association said working conditions at the ProMedica facilities have deteriorated so badly that nurses sometimes pull a 12-hour shift, sleep five hours, and then return to work for another full shift.

They also said patient safety is at risk as corners are cut by ProMedica’s leadership. ProMedica maintains it has the proper procedures in place to ensure patient safety.

“You’re working 16-hour shifts, and, if you work the next morning, you’re expected to be back by 6:30 a.m.,” said Sheila Warner, a registered nurse who works at both hospitals. “We’ve been telling them for years we need help.

“Here,” she said, “in the last few months, it’s been out of control.”

The complaint is being investigated by the labor relations board. If the board decides it has merit, a hearing will be held before an admistrative law judge.

“We deny any unfair labor practices,” ProMedica spokesman Tedra White wrote in a statement to The Blade. “We are committed to our employees in ensuring a safe environment where we can provide high quality care and service for the patients we all serve. We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the Michigan Nurses Association and hope to reach an agreement soon.”

Ms. LaVigne filed a separate complaint with the board Jan. 3 in which she stated that she was verbally and physically assaulted by a supervisor at the hospital. Adrian police responded to the incident on Dec. 4.

The redacted police report, obtained by The Blade, states: “[Name redacted] said she grabbed [name redacted]’s hands and pulled her into her office so that patients and staff would not hear them.”

Adrian City Attorney Sarah Osburn reviewed the matter and said there would be no charges because there was a lack of evidence.

The supervisor did not return a call made by The Blade on Thursday.

Ms. White said ProMedica does not comment on personnel issues.

More than a dozen safety complaints were filed by nurses in 2012 to alert ProMedica’s management to issues.

Some of the forms, which were obtained by The Blade, said patients did not receive their medication on time, were left on bed pans for periods as long as 30 minutes, and weren’t hooked up to monitors while in the hallways.

The Blade also obtained a July nursing schedule for both hospitals that showed more than 300 shifts that were unfilled.

“They fail to see there is a staffing problem,” Ms. Warner said.

Ms. White said Bixby and Herrick were properly staffed in July and the hospitals are focused on providing the best care possible. If a staffing issue arises, it’s taken care of, she added.

“The report in question did not reflect the actual July staffing needs. Initial schedules may have open positions,” she wrote in a statement. “We look at the areas with the most critical needs and staff appropriately depending on patient census and patient needs.”

Contact Kris Turner at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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