Letters to the Editor: Porter nurses emphasize staffing in contract talks

An important process is occurring at Porter Medical Center, one of personal interest to Addison County residents. The Porter Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals are engaged in contract negotiations with the hospital administration, and this concerns all of us because what is good for the nurses is good for us. When we seek healing in the Porter complex, we depend on the nurses for our care and well-being. The nurses there are our neighbors and friends, even our relatives. It is important to all of us that the nurses are respected and well treated.
Of central importance to the nurses is the issue of nurse-to-patient ratios. The nurses insist on professional standards regarding the number of patients they are required to care for. The ratios establish the maximum number of patients that a Registered Nurse may be assigned during a shift. The required number of nurses for one unit cannot be lowered to cover inadequate ratios in another unit, and nurses cannot be assigned to units where they have inadequate experience and training. California began enacting these state-mandated nurse-to-patients ratio rules in 2004, with these positive outcomes:
•  The favorable nurse-to-patient ratios decreased the incidents of patient death significantly;
•  Nurses’ job satisfaction improved, the burnout rate decreased, and the quality of care delivered by the nurses improved;
•  Illness and work-related injury among the nurses decreased by 30 percent. (The profession of nursing experiences more work-related injuries to women than any other career.).
Health center administrators do not, in general, support these nurse-to-patient ratio standards. If a hospital is run like a business, the focus has to be on financial health. But the nurses caution that attention to the fiscal bottom line should not be an excuse to overload nurses with too many patients or require nurses to serve in units where they are not adequately trained, because the true bottom line is patient wellness — our wellness — the people of the county.
To support the nurses in their quest for a wisely considered and fair contract, express your thoughts to the Porter Medical Center Board, a board that “is made up of community members who are dedicated to helping our medical center achieve high quality compassionate health care services for our community,” and who are identified at portermedical.org/boardmembers.html. A cookout and rally to show support for the Porter nurses and for Health Care as a Human Right will be held on the Middlebury town green on Aug. 26, Saturday, beginning at 4 p.m. And, the Porter nurses invite the community to join nurses and all working folk on Labor Day, Sept. 4, details forthcoming.
Millard M. Cox

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