Registered nurses and Marin community members held a candlelight vigil at Marin General Hospital Wednesday to highlight growing concerns over unsafe staffing levels and reductions in the quality of patient care.
“Hospital management needs to recommit itself to our patients and the nurses. Patient safety is too often compromised at our hospital by cutbacks,” said Virginia Currie, an RN in the Cardiac Specialty Unit. “The public deserves a community hospital that treats its nurses fairly and provides the highest care to its patients.”
Nurses say their concerns are reflected in the recent penalties against Marin General, for the second year in a row, by the federal government for having high rates of potentially avoidable infections and complications such as blood clots, bedsores and falls.
The penalties will result in lower reimbursement rates for the hospital, as part of Medicare’s Hospital-Acquired Conditions Reduction Program, which was mandated by the federal health law to reduce patient injuries.
“It’s a serious problem for the community when even the federal government is saying, ‘Yes, there problems at Marin General which could have been avoided,’” said Barb Ryan, RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “Financial penalties don’t truly make up for a patient who had to endure bedsores from not being rotated often enough, all because cutbacks left us under staffed.”
Nurses are calling on the hospital to address:
Unsafe staffing level. Due to insufficient staff, the hospital is too often in violation of the state’s minimum staffing laws when nurses have a high number of very ill patients, say nurses.
Insufficient breaks: Nurses continue to call on the hospital for adequate meal and rest breaks. Studies have shown that inadequate breaks and resulting fatigue can compromise patient care.
“Sitters” needed at-risk patients. Nurses are also demanding that the hospital bring back “sitters,” who watch patients at risk of falling and injuring themselves.
Due to cutbacks, the hospital has increased the use of physical restraints on patients, many of whom are elderly or suffer from mental illness.
“We want to shine a light on patient care concerns at Marin General,” said Sheryl Santon, RN in the Emergency Department. “Even these recent penalties by the federal government highlight that the issues are avoidable. It doesn’t have to be this way. Our nurses are calling on the hospital to do better.”