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By Richard Asinof
By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – Nurses at Women & Infants Hospital distributed leaflets on Wednesday afternoon to draw attention to what they claimed was a declining standard of care at the hospital, according to a news release sent by Patrick Quinn, executive vice president of Local 1199-NE of the Service Employees International Union.
At issue was the current staffing for nurses and patient care staff, according to the news release. Nurses and other staff who are union members conducted a vote last week to express “no confidence” in the hospital’s chief nursing officer, criticizing what they claimed was the hospital’s failure to staff units adequately and the hospital bringing in temporary nurses at higher costs, said the news release.
“We have worked so hard for years to offer the best care available, we really take pride in our work,” said Kelly Baker, a nurse on the hospital’s mother-baby unit, in the news release. “But when we’re so short staffed, we just haven’t been able to offer the kind of care and attention our patients deserve.”
Quinn did not respond to numerous attempts to reach him. Fil Eden, a union organizer, referred all questions to Suki Ream, a nurse on the labor and delivery unit. Ream did not respond to numerous calls.
In a statement in the release, Ream said Women & Infants used to stand for quality care. Now, she claimed, “the hospital is becoming a business that is concerned more with saving money than with saving lives.”
Mark R. Marcantano, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Women & Infants, strongly disputed Ream’s claims, calling the leafleting action “pretty standard fare for 1199.”
Given the dynamics of the health care market under health care reform, Marcantano continued, “we’ve had to do a lot of things to control costs, managing premium labor and keeping quality high.”
The current conflict, Marcantano explained further, is centered on issues regarding summer staffing, a busy season for both deliveries and vacations.
“The union has been very adept in utilizing the existing system to get double time, holding out for another summer agreement, even asking for triple time, and we cannot afford that,” Marcantano told Providence Business News. “There are plenty of shifts at regular time and at time and a half.”
When nurses don’t sign up for those shifts, he continued, the hospital doesn’t have enough people and is forced to hire outside nurses.
Marcantano said that the hospital and the union had finished what he called “a great round of negotiations together” in December of 2012 to arrive at terms for a four-year contract.
It’s a shame, he said, that the current dispute may overshadow the good work that the hospital leadership and union have done together “to make sure the patients get the highest quality care in the most efficient ways.”