Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC) unionized RNs—members of HPAE Local 5058—discussing working conditions, staffing levels and patient safety in the survey, reported feeling management did not support their efforts and that they do not feel respected or protected in the workplace.
Results of the survey are being released today in the first of what HPAE plans to be several position papers, called “HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH: Profits Before Safe Care?”
Additionally, the paper raises questions.
- Is HMH, which is one of the most profitable non-profit healthcare corporations in New Jersey, investing enough of their nearly two billion dollars of profit from 2019 through 2021 in safety, training and recruitment to ensure they have a workforce that can meet the health needs of patients?
- After receiving nineteen citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) how much did the health system utilize of the allotted $1,030,867,507 in federal pandemic funds to remedy those conditions for which they were cited for?
“These frontline healthcare workers have heroically sacrificed, suffered, and persevered while treating patients sick from COVID-19,” HPAE President Debbie White, RN, said. “We are facing a pivotal moment in healthcare and employers have an opportunity to invest in their workforce or continue to neglect the workers who have gone above and beyond to provide safe care despite the hazards they themselves face in their workplace.”
These horrible working conditions led to many nurses leaving bedside care at the hospital, exacerbating a staffing shortage across the hospital that has now grown into a full-blown crisis. After finding hospital management seemingly impervious to their many concerns, especially the ongoing mass exodus of colleagues, the JSUMC nurses conducted a survey of their members.
Almost half of the membership responded to the survey that began December 31, 2021 and closed on July 19, 2022. In one telling portion of the survey, 54 percent of nurses responding said they would not feel safe being treated at JSUMC, even though they work in the hospital. 58 percent of respondents said they don’t feel safe working in the hospital
and 79 percent of them said hospital management does not take adequate steps to keep them safe.
“Over the past three months, we have lost many experienced RN’s due to the lack of organization and support the department needs,” one nurse said in the survey. “Morale is beyond poor; it is in the toilet. Then, with this last wave of COVID and over 50 staff members out sick. The nurses went from a four-patient assignment to a six-patient assignment. Some nurses having multiple ICU (intensive care unit) patients and COVID patients, this has been beyond unsafe.”
“Internal triage held upwards of 50 patients with COVID patients mixed on with non-COVID patients,” the same nurse continued. “The worst being no staff available to care for these people. These patients were sitting in soiled clothing. Not medicated as per orders due to lack of staff. Upper management chose not to place us on divert or bypass. It is beyond sad that HMH cannot properly care for the community in these tough times. Yet, they are putting patients and staff at risk.”
HPAE Local 5058 nurses are currently in bargaining with HMH administration. The nurses are seeking to gain a greater role in improving health and safety conditions throughout their hospital. Administration is proposing to create unsafe working conditions that will put greater stress on workers, who have already reached a tipping point.
“It is heartbreaking that these nurses have not only been put through these experiences,” White said, “but now they must fight off attempts by their employer to make their working conditions even more unbearable. HMH is not just causing nurses to leave their hospital, they are debating whether they will leave their profession, putting our entire healthcare system at risk.”
Future position papers will cover workplace violence and efforts by Hackensack Meridian—despite workers having the right to organize to fight for better working conditions and benefits—to destroy their union.
Fore more information, contact: Michael Allen, (646) 436-7556.