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Baystate Franklin nurses say staffing issues lead to high turnover

  • Nurses picket outside of Baystate Franklin Medical Center Thursday as the lockout continues this week. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Nurses picket outside of Baystate Franklin Medical Center Thursday as the lockout continues this week. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Nurses picket outside of Baystate Franklin Medical Center Thursday as the lockout continues this week. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Nurses picket outside of Baystate Franklin Medical Center Thursday as the lockout continues this week. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon



Recorder Staff
Thursday, April 12, 2018

GREENFIELD — Emergency department nurse Marge Paton celebrated 30 years at the hospital while standing on the picket line.

Along with her fellow Massachusetts Nurses Association members at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Paton is calling for improvements to their ability to care for patients, saying they are understaffed and overworked.

“I love what I do, but I’d just love to be able to do it in a safe manner,” Paton said Thursday on the picket line, in the day after the strike and day three of the lockout, with one day to go.

Paton explained the staffing issues as such: in the emergency department, they constantly have too many patients, but with nowhere to send them, despite the med-surg unit having open beds. Why? There are not enough nurses to care for people on that floor and often there isn’t a charge nurse — the main point of contention between the union and the hospital administration — who can help facilitate discharging and accepting patients.

“It bottlenecks down to the ER,” she said.

Ginger Brodeur, who works in the mental health unit and has been at the Greenfield hospital for 35 years, said her unit has been without a night nurse for six months.

The staffing issues at the Greenfield hospital are so grave at the moment, nurses said Thursday, that they risk slipping up on care.

They said it’s troubling to see young nurses come out of college, be placed on the overnight shifts, and not have any veteran support or charge nurses who can assist them.

“Those new nurses really need the support,” obstetrics nurse Lena Morimoto said. “That’s something we’re really fighting for, so they can be there to back them up.”

This issue has led to many young nurses leaving their jobs in Greenfield and some leaving the profession altogether, nurses interviewed Thursday said.

“Turnover rate is higher because people are so burned out,” float nurse Katherine Chmura said.

The hospital’s Interim Chief Nursing Officer Deb Provost contested this picture the nurses drew up, saying Thursday evening, “not since I’ve been here” has that been a problem.

Provost has been in her position in Greenfield since November, but has been with Baystate Health for 42 years.

She said the hospital has provided adjustments for staffing since she’s gotten there, which “provide greater flexibility.” She pointed to the float pool and ancillary staff that have been added.

Chmura, who has been at the hospital for six years and for the last three as a nurse, said while she enjoys the position of float nurse, it often doesn’t function as it’s billed. Instead of floating as an extra hand for different units, she is assigned in the morning to the unit in the most need of staff to fill its basic needs.

“They put me where they need me the most, but there are still other units that are short,” she said.

The hospital has a referral program posted near the emergency department, nurses said. If they reference a nurse and that person gets hired for a particular position, the nurse who gave the referral will receive $500.

Provost and the hospital administration confirmed this program exists and has existed across Baystate for years, but could not confirm Thursday night whether the amount for the emergency department nurse is out of the ordinary.

“I think this contract will bring greater flexibility for staffing,” Provost said. “Why isn’t the union leadership willing to bring the offer to the nurses?”

Nurses asked why Provost and Interim President Ron Bryant haven’t been to the bargaining table yet.

Provost said she and Bryant have “confidence in the bargaining committee that has been there since the beginning of negotiations.” She said they wanted to leave it to them, instead, although she did acknowledge prior president Cindy Russo attended a couple of negotiating sessions toward the end of her time at the hospital.

Russo announced her resignation in December, saying she would leave in January for personal reasons. The announcement was also around the same time an unfair labor practice charge was found to have merit by the National Labor Relations Board regional office. The charge had been submitted by the newly formed security union and had accused Russo of interfering in union-forming activities. Bryant, president of Westfield’s Noble Hospital, has since been placed in charge of the Greenfield hospital, too.

Provost said if invited to the negotiating table by the nurses, she would go. Then, when told nurses Thursday called for her and Bryant to be there, she said, “We would definitely take that under advisement.”

The lockout is scheduled to conclude tonight, having started Tuesday. On Wednesday, the nurses went on strike for 24 hours. During the course of the week, Greenfield Police has worked as private detail to help keep the peace, Chief Robert Haigh said, at a cost of about $13,600 to Baystate Franklin.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264