Nurse sees lesson in hospital Medicare penalty

Friday, January 19, 2018

As a registered nurse at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, I was disappointed but not surprised to see BFMC was penalized because it was among U.S. hospitals in the worst performing quartile with respect to hospital-acquired conditions.

(“Baystate Franklin among 751 hospitals punished under Obamacare”).

I am disappointed BFMC will lose 1 percent of its Medicare payments. I am not shocked, however, because our nurses have been advocating for improved patient safety for a long time. Over the past year, we have reached out to local members of Baystate’s Board of Trustees, held informational pickets, public rallies and a one-day strike. Our message is simple: BFMC should ensure safe patient care through improved nurse staffing.

During ongoing contract negotiations, we have thoroughly documented our patient safety concerns. The hospital’s own data shows nurses working thousands of shifts longer than 12 hours, which can negatively impact the quality of patient care. The hospital’s own schedules feature hundreds of unfilled nursing shifts, which managers struggle and often fail to fill, forcing nurses to work too many consecutive hours or without the assistance they need.

In response, we have proposed evidence-based solutions. We asked the hospital to improve how they staff nurses in ways specific to our patients’ needs. Our proposals are supported by decades of research. In April, we presented 39 studies to management showing that safe patient limits for nurses improve patient outcomes and limit the very problems the government cited.

Greenfield Health Department Director Alexeev Jones told The Recorder that BFMC should take a “proactive” approach when it comes to ensuring patient safety. He also called the penalty a “wake-up” call to hospitals like BFMC. I can see why hospital administrators, like nurses, would be disappointed. I cannot see how they could be surprised. 

 Donna Stern