Borgess RNs Fight Back Against Hospital’s Dangerous Staffing Cuts

Contact: Andrew Baker, 517-488-1707

Hospital management attempts to silence nurses, is met with ULP charge

(Kalamazoo, MI) The registered nurses of the Borgess Staff Nurses Council/Michigan Nurses Association spoke out against Ascension’s plan to slash nurse staffing levels yesterday by wearing buttons into the hospital. Borgess management attempted to silence nurses, who are advocating for the safety of their patients, by illegally ordering RNs to remove their buttons.

Nurses have the right to take part in collective actions at work such as wearing buttons to protest staffing cuts. Nurses have responded to this unlawful order by filing an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Borgess Medical Center with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Borgess has refused to confirm or deny rumors that bedside nurses could face layoffs. Regardless of whether jobs are lost, Borgess nurses believe that management’s plan to drastically reduce nurse staffing levels is not possible without seriously endangering the safety of patients. Nurses are asking to meet with hospital department directors to have them justify these new staffing plans.

“Our patients have a right to safe, quality care when they walk through our doors, and management has a responsibility to our community to justify these dangerous decisions” said Jamie Brown, RN and President of the Borgess Staff Nurses Council/MNA. “These staffing decisions, which impact the health of Kalamazoo residents, are coming out of an Ascension board room in St. Louis with no input from frontline caregivers. Nurses are not just a line item in Ascension’s budget – we will stand together to fight for safe RN staffing in every department, on every shift, and for every patient.”

St. Louis-based Ascension Health, the world’s largest Catholic healthcare system, owns and operates Borgess Medical Center, and is pressuring the hospital to cut nurse staffing to reduce the local budget. Ascension has hired a third-party company, Truven, to recommend ways to lower costs by increasing “efficiency.” Borgess nurses have requested information about those recommendations but have received no response from the hospital.

The plan proposed by Borgess management would also absorb a group of specialized RNs known as the Service With A Task (SWAT) Department into a critical care unit, limiting their responsiveness to emergencies across the hospital by shouldering them with additional work.

“I know first-hand how management’s plan would endanger patients because SWAT nurses are called on to fill in across the hospital in times of critical need,” said Donna Langford, a Borgess SWAT nurse. “We respond at a moment’s notice to step in and provide essential care during a crisis. If we are absorbed by another unit, who will be there when it counts most to make sure patients are receiving the skilled care they require?”

In addition to staffing cuts, Borgess is proposing the creation of a new stepdown unit for patients requiring critical care by merging services on an existing floor. They have made no commitment to provide the necessary training and orientation for nurses to safely care for people requiring such specialized care.

“Forcing nurses to care for people in situations they aren’t trained for is dangerous, and can lead to complications for our patients,” said Kathy Hillman, a critical care RN at Borgess. “When those patients then come to critical care, it is often a matter of life and death. Ensuring that nurses have sufficient training to care for the patients they’re assigned is just as important as safe staffing.”

While Ascension is demanding cuts to nurse staffing levels to save money, Borgess recently announced a $35-million-dollar expansion of their Operating Rooms. They claim this expansion is necessary to meet hospital needs, but the elimination of frontline nurses will place patients directly in harm’s way.

“Before and after a procedure, surgical patients require nursing care from other departments in our hospital. Sacrificing safe RN staffing levels in those units is not an acceptable cost for building new operating rooms,” said Emily Fredericksen, Pre-Op Surgical Services RN. “This should not be an either/or proposal –  Borgess should provide patients with both top-notch facilities and safe nurse staffing.”

Nurses are calling on Borgess Chief Executive Officer Kathy Young to drop the arbitrary March 4th deadline to implement these cuts and to meet with nurses to discuss and justify any plans that will put patients in harm’s way.


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