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Letter to the editor: More nurses needed at Porter Medical Center

We’re not writing today to talk about the rising salaries of hospital administrators, even though as reported in Vermont Digger, they have increased 12% over the last year.
We’re not writing today to talk about the difficulties many of our patients have in paying for medical care — even though Vermonters voted definitively nearly a decade ago for universal healthcare.
We are writing to alert the public about the rising problem of short staffing at Porter Hospital and how it stands in stark contrast to the Green Mountain Care Board’s chief charge “to ensure that the state of Vermont maintains a high quality healthcare system.”
Consider these facts, from various studies and gathered by Health Professionals and Allied Employees, N.J.:
•  A one patient increase in a nurse’s workload increases the likelihood of an inpatient death within 30 days of admission by 30%.
•  Each one patient increase in a hospital’s average staffing ratio increases the odds of a medical patient’s readmission within 15-30 days by 11%, and for surgical patients by 48%.
•  Low staffing levels lead to higher rates of blood infections, 30-day mortality, urinary tract infections, and pressure ulcers.
•  When nurse staffing levels increase, the patient risk of hospital acquired complications and length of stay decrease, resulting in medical cost savings.
Meanwhile, here at Porter:
•  Nurses with no critical care experience, who have not completed the required online class for acutely ill patients, are being assigned patients on powerful IV drip medications routinely seen only in Intensive Care Units.
•  In the nursing home, nurses are unable to follow the care plans for residents as there is not enough help to meet the needs of the residents.
•  A nurse was forced to leave her 43 residents at the nursing home in the care of four LNAs for an hour and a half so that she could assist a traveler nurse on another unit. The traveler needed help because she was unfamiliar with the protocol for patient falls, and was under the mistaken impression that there was an in-house supervisor to help out, as is the case in other facilities in which she has worked — but not here at Porter.
•  In the last three months, five nurses* left after working at Porter for less than seven months. And while Porter has very publicly promised to budget for seven additional RNs, this will only begin to address a mounting issue, with no guarantee from management to maintain the kind of staffing and training that saves lives.
•  A nurse recently completed her orientation and is functioning on her own. Yet, her 47-page orientation manual and competency checklist is blank. Despite the lack of documented competency to perform her own job, she may also be required to float to an unfamiliar unit to function as “helping hands.”
Porter Hospital administrators laud their efforts to reduce the number of traveling nurses, but at what cost to nurses, ancillary staff and patients?
We’re not writing to ask you to weigh in on a “labor/management” matter. We are asking you to urge Porter to show our patients and our caring community the respect and care they deserve.
There is a better way:
A. Safe nurse-patient ratios.
B. Complete orientation by trained preceptors.
C. Critically ill patients cared for by critical care nurses.
D. Adequate supervisory support.
Please tell Dr. Kniffin and the Porter Board of Directors to instruct their management team to put patients first.
Alice Leo, Middlebury on behalf of
The Executive Council Porter Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals
Local 5753

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