Union wants more training, staff at Women & Infants after it says hospital begins treating men, children

MEMBERS OF THE Service Employees International Union 1199 New England recently held an informational picket demanding management at Woman & Infants Hospital provide better training and staffing after advocates say the hospital has begun providing medical treatment to men and children for the first time without clear communication and ignoring input from staff on the changes to patient care, while hospital leadership says nothing has changed. / COURTESY WOMEN & INFANTS HOSPITAL

PROVIDENCE – Members of the Service Employees International Union 1199 New England recently held an informational picket demanding management at Women & Infants Hospital to provide better training and staffing.

This comes after advocates say the hospital has begun providing medical treatment to men and children for the first time without clear communication and ignoring input from staff on the changes to patient care.

“We are experiencing a domino effect in other areas of the hospital because of the new care model that has been adopted to treat men and children,” Adriana Chartier, a registered nurse in the Labor Delivery Room, said in a statement. ‘I work in the Labor Room and we were told that we would now be needing to float to the emergency room because of its higher volume of patients and increasing turnover of nurses. Some nurses have been here for 30 years and have never treated anyone other than women and infants.”

Advocates say the “momentous” shift in patient care has happened over the last few months and front-line staff members want to discuss the training that’s needed to care for men and children. That’s because men and children require care that’s different from the care traditionally offered to women and infants at the hospital.

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Advocates also say emergency room staffing and expertise needs to keep up with the rising volume of patients. This is because those in the emergency room tend to have more-complicated medical needs than the hospital’s traditional patient base, including substance use and mental health challenges.

Staff members also raised concerns about the use of subcontracting in the Medical Coding Department that violates the collective bargaining agreement between the hospital and union. They say management has refused to meet and address this in violation of the federal labor law.

Overall, the union said members “want management to respect and value the contribution” of their work “along with listening to and valuing the input of workers in departments across the hospital.” This includes the Dietary, Environmental Services and the Central Processing departments, which they say are often overlooked.

Patrick Jones, who worked in the Dietary Department, described a time when the department was tasked with making 700 clam cakes for staff during a recent Worker Appreciation Week, while workers in the Dietary Department were not recognized by management. When this was brought to management, they walked out during a meeting, he said.

Hospital leaders say nothing has changed.

“The information shared in the SEIU press release is incorrect. Women & Infants focuses on providing care to women and infants,” Raina Smith, a spokesperson for Care New England Health System, said in a statement. “The Women & Infants Emergency Department (ED) – like all emergency departments – is required by law (the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA)) to assess and stabilize anyone who comes to the ED, including men and children. This has always been the case.”

Smith also said management is “disappointed to see 1199 SEIU holding an informational picket.

“We believe the time would be much better spent having continued active and productive dialogue about topics important to our valued team members,” she said.

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com

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