Local nurses speak out about understaffing
Vermontville, Mich., resident and behavioral health nurse Mary Perkins describes the dilemma of the understaffing of nurses at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital on Thursday morning at the Michigan Nurses Association office, 2310 Jolly Oak Road, in Okemos. Perkins shared stories of attempting to manage seven to eight patients at a time with no possibility of a break.
Local nurses made their concerns about understaffing at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital clear by filing an official report citing instances of unsafe staffing conditions.
Members of the Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital, or PECSH, submitted “Misplaced Priorities: The Deteriorating Condition of Safe Patient Care at Sparrow Hospital,” to the Michigan Department of Community Health on Thursday morning.
The report compiled staffing concerns made by Sparrow Hospital nurses from January 2009 to August 2010
The nurses were represented by the Michigan Nurses Association, or MNA — a union for registered nurses in Michigan.
Jeff Breslin, president of both PECSH and the MNA, said he has worked at Sparrow Hospital for more than 15 years, and considers Sparrow his home.
However, he said the understaffing issue at the hospital is one that can’t be kept quiet any longer.
“It is our duty as professionals to make sure our patients are kept safe,” Breslin said. “We need to make the community aware of what’s going on.”
Complaints were filed by nurses when they believed the insufficient number of staff was interfering with patient care. The report claims that of the 780 times staffing concerns were reported at the hospital in 2009, it was short-staffed 70 percent of the time. Of the 615 reported concerns in 2010 through August, it was short-staffed 71 percent of the time. The report also includes specific examples of unsafe staffing situations filed by nurses and health care professionals during these time periods.
Mary Perkins, a nurse in Sparrow’s Behavioral Health Department, was one of the speakers at a press conference held Thursday. She said she spoke out because she doesn’t think nurses are providing quality care for patients because of current working conditions.
“Nurses put patients first; it’s time for Sparrow to do the same,” Perkins said. “I’m hoping Sparrow will realize the importance of the issue.”
John Foren, communications specialist for Sparrow Hospital, said the hospital was unaware of the existence of the report before it was filed.
“We’re still kind of tracking down whether the forms they’re talking about were filed internally,” Foren said.
Breslin said the numbers in the report are alarming.
“Nurses are torn between various needs of so many patients at one time,” Breslin said during the press conference. “(We) feel horrible when we’re juggling too many patients.”
Ingham County Commissioner Debbie DeLeon said the findings of the report concerned her.
“Quality health care is something we all expect when going to a health care provider,” DeLeon said. “(Short staffing) could be a life and death situation in some cases.”
DeLeon said she supports the nurses involved in the report and hopes their concerns are addressed in the contract negotiating process currently going on between Sparrow Hospital and the MNA.
Foren said he was confident Sparrow Hospital and the MNA would come to an agreement before Oct. 31, the deadline for contract negotiations.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with them,” Foren said. “It’s not adversarial in any way.”