MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) -- The Michigan Nurses Association and nurses employed by UP Health System - Marquette delivered a report detailing their concerns about patient safety to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 24.
The report, entitled "Misplaced Priorities, documented 111 cases of IVs running dry or medicines given late, 12 cases of patient falls, and 259 cases of nurses working dangerously long shifts or going without breaks. It also reported cases in which patient care suffered due to understaffing:
In May, a nurse reported the Intensive Care Unit had no open beds to accommodate a patient already in open-heart surgery.
In June, a nurse reported an ICU patient was left on a gurney in the emergency department hallway for 22 hours.
Also in June, a nurse reported a patient sat in dried feces for at least six hours.
One patient who had a surgery at the hospital this month, Paul Churchville of Marquette, said he noticed the toll taken by overworking.
"They all had bags under their eyes, every nurse there, and they were all obviously stressed and and tired," Churchville said. "I started asking them, 'How long have you been working?' They were all on 12-hour shifts, everyone I talked to. Two of them had been working for 16 hours."
The Michigan Nurses Association and the hospital are currently in contract negotiations, and have been since April 2017. A previously agreed upon contact extension expired on July 28.
The nurses said they wanted the contracts to include a lower patient-to-nurse ratio. An ideal ratio is around 4:1, according to Registered Nurse and contract negotiation team member Janie Klamerus. She said she had recently seen up to 9:1 at UP Health System - Marquette.
"We're all willing to do our jobs. We're willing to work hard, take care of our patients," Klamerus said. "But we want to do it safely."
By late afternoon on Aug. 25, MDHHS had forwarded the report and its complaints to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), which confirmed receiving it and said they were reviewing the allegations.
The process continues through LARA’s Bureau of Community and Health Systems (BCHS), which will review the complaint to determine if any of the allegations violate state or federal regulations. If they determine the answer is yes, they will then triage the complaint to determine priority for investigation. If triaged at possible immediate jeopardy (IJ), they will investigate within 48 hours. If not an IJ, the complaint will be investigated based on the severity of the allegations, which could be within five days or even at the next routine inspection. Hospital complaints are also forwarded to the hospital’s accrediting organization for review and investigation, if appropriate.
The nurses and their supporters hoped the complaint brings change, and soon.
"What they're saying is the absolute honest truth," Churchville said. "I have literally lived for years in hospitals—years—with polio. I know when they're functioning and when they're not, and this is broken."
UP Health System - Marquette said it had no new comment Aug. 25, but released a statement Aug. 24:
Delivering safe, high-quality care is UP Health System - Marquette’s top priority. We take all concerns regarding patient safety very seriously, and we have worked to ensure that our staff have many ways to share ideas, voice concerns and ask questions. In fact, the forms the Michigan Nurses Association is delivering to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services today were part of an initiative to expand the ways we collect feedback from our nurses. We carefully review and work to address any issue raised as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
These forms were intended to serve as a constructive tool to generate conversation and collaboration, and we are disappointed that the union has opted to leverage them in this way while we are negotiating a new contract that better meets the needs of our staff, our community and our hospital. We welcome the opportunity to sit down and discuss these concerns with the MNA, our nursing staff or anyone in our community.
To view the entire report, visit the Related Documents section of this story.
To learn more, visit the nurses' new website.