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Nurses say understaffing at two Michigan hospitals puts patients at risk


A federal complaint has been filed against two Lenawee  County hospitals. 

Nurses at Bixby Hospital in Adrian and Herrick Hospital in Tecumseh say chronic understaffing is putting patients at risk. The nurses are asking the National Labor Relations Board to intervene. Dawn Kettinger  is with the Michigan Nurses Association.

She says nurses often have to care for six or seven patients at a time, and are mandated to work 16-hour shifts.

"All the research tells us all of these practices translate to medical errors, more infections, even patient death," Kettinger says. "If you or a loved one needs to use the services of these hospitals, we'll do the absolute best we can, but it's getting tougher and tougher to give you safe care."

Kettinger says staffing levels vary by units, but says on a medical surgical floor, one nurse should not have to take care of more than four patients.

"Medical surgical floors are particular vulnerable, because that's when people can pick up infections or respiratory diseases that can really knock them out and cause re-admissions," Kettinger says.

She says in intensive care units, the generally accepted practice is a one-to-one ratio.

The nurses are in contract negotiations with Pro-Medica, the non-profit organization which owns the hospitals.

"The sticking point is this patient safety issue," Kettinger says. "Nurses are advocates for patients. The first thing on the table is safe staffing. It's a chronic problem."

The nurses also allege the hospitals use retaliation, coercion and intimidation against those who raise concerns about problems.

ProMedica would provide only a written statement. It said safety is the cornerstone of its mission and that it will continue to negotiate in good faith.

The nurses rejected what ProMedica called its final contract offer last month.