The Michigan Nurses Association filed a lawsuit on November 2, 2017 against Detroit Medical Center’s 158-bed Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital (“the hospital”), alleging that the for-profit corporate owner of the Detroit Medical Center, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, has instituted cost-cutting measures to increase its profits that has led to dangerously low staffing levels of nurses at the hospital that endangers patient safety.
The nursing shortage lawsuit alleges that nurses at the hospital are forced to work 12-hour shifts without a break and that patient safety has been affected by the nurse shortage: patients are left unattended, patients have received their medications late, patients have experienced falls, and patients are sitting in their own urine and feces because nurses do not have time to bathe them.
In addition to the Michigan Nurses Association, the plaintiffs include seven nurses employed by the hospital who allege that they have provided the hospital’s management with more than 240 written notices regarding unsafe practices and unsafe conditions at the hospital that affect patient safety that are due to a shortage of nurses at the hospital. The plaintiff nurses allege in the lawsuit that the management at the hospital failed to accept the written notices or refused to respond to the allegations stated in the written notices. The nurses seek an order from the court requiring the hospital to accept and respond to their complaints regarding unsafe conditions in the hospital. They also seek a declaration from the court that the hospital is in violation of the Michigan Public Health Code.
The hospital denies that it is understaffed with nurses and further alleges that its staffing of nurses complies with national guidelines. The hospital also contends that it immediately recognizes complaints received from hospital staff regarding conditions in the hospital.
The hospital alleges that patient safety is its top priority and points to its recent receipt of an “A” rating from The Leapfrog Group, which has been rating patient safety in hospitals throughout the United States since 2012, based on surveys (the hospital is one of only three hospitals in Michigan to receive an “A” rating each time since 2012). However, the hospital safety grade does not take into consideration the nurse-to-patient ratio at hospitals and is not based on site visits to the hospitals.
A 38-page report issued on November 2, 2017 by the Professional Nurses Association of Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital entitled “Unable to Provide Safe Patient Care” stated in its Executive Summary:
“As Huron Valley‐Sinai Hospital (HVSH) has changed from a stand‐alone non-profit community hospital to just one unit of a giant for-profit healthcare chain, workers and patients have felt the impact of corporate cost‐cutting policies. With an increased focus on generating revenues, many nursing and support staff positions are not posted and go unfilled, creating tremendous pressure on HVSH workers to do more with less. Nurses at Huron Valley‐Sinai Hospital are in active contract negotiations with management trying to address the working conditions and staffing concerns reflected in this report.
This patient care report is a summary of over 240 Assignment Despite Objection (ADO) forms filled out by PNA‐HVSH nurses between January 1, 2017 and September 1, 2017 – nearly one unsafe incident every day. As a result of cutbacks, numerous unsafe situations were reported, including:
1. Patient falls in Medical/Surgical and Intensive Care Units
2. Late medications
3. Failure to deliver basic hygiene and human care
4. Patients left unattended during critical situations
5. Over 150 instances of nurses going without breaks or lunches during shifts that last as long as 12 hours, despite the impact on patient care
6. Nurses assigned without proper training; Management condoning or ignoring unsafe practices; Equipment failure
In their Assignment Despite Objections (ADO) forms, nurses have reported:
• Being “unable to provide safe patient care” because of inadequate staff
• Medications were “terribly late”
• Medications were given late, IV’s ran late or dry
• “[P]atients sitting in urine and feces…may not get a bath for several days”
• Nurses were sent to assist in ICU without intensive care training
Nurses of the Professional Nurses Association of Huron Valley‐Sinai Hospital (PNA‐HVSH) have repeatedly attempted to notify hospital management of these issues in writing, but management has consistently refused to accept this information about problems with patient care from nurses. Since the hospital cannot solve a problem it refuses to acknowledge, the Professional Nurses Association of Huron Valley‐Sinai Hospital (PNA‐HVSH) is making this data available to the public and submitting it to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for review. Nurses at HVSH voted to form their union in 2016 in order to improve their working conditions. They are currently negotiating their first contract. Securing safe and effective nurse‐to‐patient staffing levels is their highest bargaining priority. The Professional Nurses Association of Huron Valley‐Sinai Hospital welcomes community support to achieve their goals.”
The “Conclusion” of the report states:
“It is clear from the Assignment Despite Objection (ADO) reports submitted between January 1, 2017 and September 1, 2017 that Huron Valley‐Sinai Hospital has serious issues ‐‐ including RN understaffing — which affect patient safety. Tenet DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital has failed to address persistent problems internally. We urge the State of Michigan to investigate these reports and take prompt action. We urge the Hospital to engage in good faith negotiations with the nurses to secure safe and enforceable staffing levels in their labor agreement.”
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