Opinion: Porter RN layoffs seen as ‘union busting’ in disguise

I write this letter to protest the recently announced registered nurse layoffs planned for Porter Medical Center.
I must also echo the sentiment expressed by Dr. Patrick Stine in a recent letter and say that I love PMC. I worked at Porter Internal Medicine for 15 years. I had the distinct personal and professional satisfaction of being the designated office RN first for Dr. Meghan Cook and then for Dr. Brad Armstrong. I have also been a patient at PMC having had both minor and major surgeries and emergency room care. The care I received was excellent and nursing was integral to that excellence at every step.
Porter has already removed five LPNs from within the hospital. When I was a patient on the main floor these nurses delivered skilled and compassionate bedside care. To now take the step of removing 8.5 RN positions from the physician practices further depletes patient care and safety. When I reflect on the emergencies encountered during my 15 years as an office nurse I shudder to think of their occurrence without the presence of experienced, professional RNs. We dealt with heart attack, systemic allergic reactions, seizures, severe hypoglycemia and psychiatric crises to name but a few.
New PMC President and CEO Lynn Boggs writes (Independent, Jan. 11) that enhancing and protecting patient care is at the heart of these actions. Removing nurses from the bedside, exam room, and triage process leads me to question just what concept of patient care she and the board of directors have in mind.
In recent years the hospital has had major expenditures. Millions of over-budget dollars were spent on a problematic electronic medical records. The first floor and other hospital areas were extensively remodeled. In addition the hospital acquired more outpatient practices, and major renovations were done to some of these. I suggest that the hospital’s red ink is not due to the wages of five LPN (license practical nurse) and 8.5 RN positions. The fact that a $30 million capital improvement to the PMC campus is mentioned in the same context as cutting dedicated, professional staff with the possible “saving” of $1 million begs credulity.
Several years ago Porter nurses reluctantly started the long and difficult task of forming a labor union. The RNs elected to join with the American Federation of Teachers within the AFL-CIO. The countless hours put into this endeavor by working nurses was in response to increasingly disrespectful and threatening behaviors by hospital administrators and middle management. Job descriptions, hours of work, seniority, benefits, requirements and actual positions were being changed or rumored to be changing. This was happening without nursing input.
The vote to unionize, with RN membership only, was very close. But the union did win. I offer to you that nurses are not a professional group that historically has embraced labor unions. The vast majority of nurses are women, many of whom do not have the time for union meetings, question union dues and find the action of going on strike very difficult to contemplate. Nurses are truly dedicated to patient care and balk at any notion of abandoning or neglecting their patients.
Therefore I stipulate that the PMC administration plan to eliminate RN positions under the ruse of financial necessity is actually a tactic to sabotage the union. In short, to engage in union busting. This is a sad, shameful and dangerous direction for Porter Medical Center.
Catherine Braun

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