By Ken Deitz, RN, UNAC/UHCP President
The day before Thanksgiving 2013, administrators at UHS Corona Regional Medical Center in Corona, CA fired 48 Certified Nurses Aids (CNAs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) without notice. While Registered Nurses (RNs) in the facility felt CNAs and LVNs were critical members of the team, administration called them in off the floor and permanently dismissed them, leaving the RNs to do the many tasks that they had always relied on CNAs and LVNs to do, from assisting patients to the bathroom to collecting samples for testing.
RN Marie Narisma in Corona had Thanksgiving Eve in mind when she decided to take a red eye flight to the East Coast to speak at the UHS shareholders meeting today in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. “Just by looking at the termination of 48 CNAs and LVNs during their shift, it is clear how UHS takes care of patients,” said Narisma.
Universal Health Services, Inc. (UHS) is the parent company of the Corona Regional Medical Center. Thus Narisma traveled to the UHS shareholders meeting to speak to the CEO directly about patient safety issues in the emergency room, where she works, including wait times exceeding four hours.
“UHS Corona stopped the on-call pool three years ago, whereby additional RNs were called in if the patient load was higher than expected. Now, if too many patients are admitted, UHS Corona doesn’t have enough nurses to treat patients. We have 16 beds in the ER. Sometimes 13 beds are full with patients that must be held, usually for 24 hour holds. That leaves three beds open to see new patients, what we call ‘revolving.’ This means the wait time of the patients for new patients is too long.”
Unfortunately, when Narisma was able to speak at the shareholders meeting, she doesn’t feel that UHS CEO Alan Miller understood her message that care counts. She brought him a bracelet with the words “Corona Nurses Care” and gave it to him when she spoke. She says he held it for a few minutes and then put it in his pocket. His face, she reports, remained blank, uncomprehending what care means to health care professionals.
“When I met the CEO, we shook hands and I looked him in the eye. He doesn’t know what the word ‘care’ means. I tried to explain to him what the bracelet message, ‘Corona Nurses Care,’ means to RNs at UHS Corona. I gave him the bracelet so he won’t forget about us.”
A delegation of UHS Corona RNs paid a visit to Corona CEO Mark Uffer this morning to try to discuss patient safety and quality care with him in conjunction with Narisma’s trip to UHS headquarters. UNAC/UHCP members also distributed leaflets at Southern California UHS facilities urging UHS to listen to health care professionals in their facilities who bring quality care concerns to hospital administration. A coalition of unionized health care professionals working in UHS facilities participated in the UHS shareholders meeting today, pushing for UHS to create a quality care committee on the UHS Board of Directors, in line with health care industry standards. Currently the Board of Directors does not oversee compliance with laws, or monitor patient safety and quality care.