Borgess Nurses Rally for Patient Safety in Kalamazoo

Contact: Andrew Baker, 517-488-1707

Hundreds of RNs and community members condemn Ascension’s plan to cut staffing

(Kalamazoo, MI) Today, nurses of the Borgess Staff Nurse Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA), held a rally outside of Borgess Medical Center. Nurses, along with supportive community members and state Representative Jon Hoadley, spoke out against Ascension’s dangerous plans to slash nurse staffing levels and put patients at risk.

Nurses are calling on Ascension management to put a stop to these unilateral and dangerous cuts, and work cooperatively with frontline RNs to develop staffing plans that guarantee patient safety.

“As a nurse, it is so hard to watch the short staffing happening across Borgess, just because Ascension executives in St. Louis, Missouri are obsessed with squeezing every last penny out of our hospital,” said Jamie Brown, RN and President of the Borgess Staff Nurse Council. “Make no mistake about it, these cuts will lead to higher patient loads for nurses that are already stretched too thin. When nurses have too many patients, we are unable to keep up, and patient care suffers.”

Not only is Ascension planning to cut staffing levels, which will dangerously increase the number of patients each nurse is assigned, they are also eliminating key units. Among those units is the specially-trained hospital SWAT team, which is tasked with rapid response to patients in need of critical, time-sensitive attention.

“Without those SWAT nurses, I would have died on Dec. 29th,” said John Fisher, pastor of Oshtemo United Methodist Church and recent patient at Borgess. “I am lucky that those specialized nurses, who are trained to respond to situations like mine, were staffed appropriately and available that day. But we shouldn’t rely on luck to determine life-or-death situations for patients.”

Ascension, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is making the same “efficiency” cuts to bedside care at other hospitals as part of a coordinated effort to cut costs. Yet in 2014, a Wall Street Journal report revealed that Ascension CEO Anthony Tersigni received over $17 million in total compensation. Ascension’s operating income in the first half of fiscal 2018 totaled $84.7 million, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. Borgess nurses condemned Ascension’s misplaced priorities and willingness to put their finances ahead of safe patient care.

“I am frustrated because Ascension, a supposed non-profit health system, is making decisions based solely on their bottom line,” said Donna Langford, a Borgess SWAT nurse. “I am alarmed because Ascension is making these cuts despite what they are hearing from bedside nurses and frontline caregivers. This will be catastrophic for patient safety at Borgess.”

While Ascension moves ahead with these deep cuts to nursing staff, they recently announced a $35-million-dollar plan to construct new operating rooms at Borgess.

“While Ascension pleads poverty to justify slashing RN staffing, they are investing tens of millions of dollars in building new operating rooms at Borgess,” said Emily Fredericksen, RN at Borgess in a preoperative surgical unit. “Who will staff those new and expanded operating rooms, when we don’t even have adequate staff to cover our existing OR? On Wednesday, Ascension laid off three operating room nurses they hired in January – where do they fit into this expansion?”

State Representative Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) also spoke out against Ascension’s dangerous plan to cut RN staffing levels. Hoadley has led the fight in the state House of Representatives to pass the Safe Patient Care Act, which would limit the number of patients a nurse can be assigned.

“I’m proud to stand by the Borgess/MNA nurses as they speak out against these dangerous cuts that risk patient care,” said state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo). “Out of state executives should look at their own pay before cutting the people that do the work in a hospital. As union nurses, Borgess RNs use their voices to advocate for patients. I appreciate their bravery in doing so because they’re advocating for our loved ones. Ascension has time to listen to our local caregivers and fix this before it’s too late.”

The Borgess Staff Nurse Council/MNA, which represents about 650 registered nurses at Borgess Medical Center, is affiliated with the Michigan Nurses Association, the largest labor and professional organization for nurses in the state.


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