Nursing Notes

December 22, 2011

Group says El Paso’s nurse-patient ratios inadequate

Here’s an article from the El Paso Times that discusses the differing viewpoints of what is adequate and safe staffing.  When you have sick patients that are totally at your mercy for safety, how can you skimp on the number of nurses assigned to care for them?  It is a shame that this article will get little to no attention because the topic is being put forward by the nursing union and today everyone hates unions, it seems.

This is a timely and interesting article that I hope you will read to the end and leave your thoughts about.  When nurses strike or threaten to strike it most surely will be because of patient care adequacy or patient safety.  Rarely will you find a nurse who says she/he does not make enough money.

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Posted: 12/22/2011 12:00:00 AM MST

El Paso nurses alleged Wednesday that hospitals are jeopardizing patient safety by having inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios.

This is happening with greater frequency, and it has nothing to do with nurse shortages, said members of the National Nurse Organizing Committee (NNOC)-Texas/National Nurses United (NNU).

A group of registered nurses who belong to the organization had a news conference Wednesday across the street from Del Sol Medical Center to bring attention to patient, staffing and pay issues.

The NNOC/NNU said in a statement that nurses have filed 334 formal complaints known as ADOs against Del Sol and Las Palmas Medical Center.

“ADOs (assignments despite objections) are lodged when nurses are given assignments that, in their professional judgment, could affect patient care standards,” the statement said.

El Paso NNOC/NNU members Gloria Givens and Amy Peña said they also are seeking better pay for nurses at Del Sol and Las Palmas, which together employ about 800 registered nurses.

Guidelines for the ideal nurse-patient ratios vary, depending on the level of care required for patients.

The NNOC/NNU members said California is the only state that has codified nurse-patient ratios. Although national guidelines exist, each hospital in the rest of the states sets its own policies and procedures.

“Patient care is our first and absolute priority every day at both Las Palmas and Del Sol Medical Centers,” said Carla Sierra, spokeswoman for the two hospitals.

The allegations made by the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) about staffing issues at both hospitals are not true. We have been bargaining with the NNOC in good faith, and we will continue to do so in an attempt to reach agreement on a contract.”

At Las Palmas, nurses have complained about inadequate staffing and the treatment of nurses.

“For example, in the neo-natal intensive care unit — where the most critically ill babies are cared for — staffing standards are not consistent with either the hospital’s policy or national guidelines,” the NNOC/NNU statement said. “In the telemetry unit, where adult patients are monitored and cared for — a similar situation exists, where staffing ratios are below standards.”

At Del Sol, NNOC/NNU members said, nurses also have raised concerns with management, at the bargaining table and in individual units, including medicalÐsurgical, cardiac ICU, and telemetry units, about the hospital’s nurses staffing in these units required by the hospital’s own patient classification system.

“The nurses are in negotiations with their respective hospitals, owned by Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America,” the NNOC/NNU statement said, and added that Hospital Corporation of America continues to rank at the top of the nation’s most profitable hospitals.

Peña said, “This is the time for hospital management to focus on a host of issues related to RN staffing. We have laid out these with detail and towards the goal of a comprehensive policy to ensure patient care standards.”

NNOC/NNU members said they are encouraged by the fact that registered nurses recently concluded a collective-bargaining agreement with an HCA-affiliated hospital in Las Vegas, which incorporates enhanced professional and economic standards.

“The gains we made makes me excited to continue my career in a facility that will really value skilled, experienced nurses,” said Liz Bickle, a registered nurse in the Las Vegas hospital’s progressive care unit.

The HCA Mountainview-Las Vegas contract creates a staffing committee to examine the hospital’s staffing levels. Registered nurses will also receive pay raises of 9 to 19 percent during the contract’s three-year period.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.

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