BLUEFIELD, W.Va. – Union nurses with hospitals owned by Community Health Systems say staffing shortages have endangered patient safety. The members of National Nurses United staged informational pickets or spoke to media members Tuesday in an attempt to draw attention to their concerns.

“We have a lot of staffing issues,” said Brenda Meadwell and OB nurse at the Bluefield Regional Medical Center. “The turnover within the hospital in the past three years has been horrendous and it continues to be so.”

Meadwell said prior to the takeover by Community Health Systems three years ago the staffing levels were stable and there wasn’t much turnover. She said now it’s not uncommon for nurses to be pulled from one unit to go cover another unit where they are inexperienced. Furthermore, she said in those instances, nurses are often saddled with twice as many patients to care for.

“The more understaffed it is, the more likely there is to be a bad outcome,” she said. “For someone to die, this isn’t safe for the patients or for the nurses.”

Community Health Systems has two hospitals in West Virginia, the Bluefield Regional Medical Center and the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in Ronceverte. Nurses staged an informational picket at Ronceverte and held a news conference in Bluefield to draw attention to their concerns.

“There’s been multiple times we’ve tried to approach administration to discuss the issues with unsafe staffing and equipment issues without any response. They refuse to talk to us,” Meadwell said. “They say they don’t have enough money, but they spent millions of dollars on a brand new lobby but we can’t get the proper equipment.”

The Bluefield Regional Medical Center released the following statement Tuesday evening:

“Bluefield Regional Medical Center is completely committed to providing high-quality health services for our community. We are proud of the many wonderful caregivers on our team and appreciate the professional and compassionate care they provide for their patients. Bluefield Regional schedules its staff according to the number and needs of the patients in our care. Our hospital is focused on safe practices and providing excellent care for patients.”


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  • WV-RN

    Reimbursement for services are getting harder for facilities to meet. With the new health care law it isn't going to get better for hospitals any time soon. Staffing is an easy way for administration to cut day to day costs. People in administration at hospitals rarely have a clue about what it is actually like for patients or nurses. Administrators (not all of them) often seem to think we nurses are Divine and can be every where present, instead of with one pt at a time. They hold forth lofty and often excellent ideals but don't provide the staffing to carry them out. The more time I can spend with each pt, the less likely for errors and am able to provide better care, which usually equals better pt satisfaction.

  • Shawn H

    One of them needs a sign that says, "I get time and a half for this!"

  • John

    Please tell me your just trying to be funny. Surely your not that ignorant.

    • ljmax

      Joe, if you are not sure where I'm coming Obama always says, "let me be clear"...until we get rid of all the Democrats in WV that support Obama, we're never going to have a energy policy that includes coal or any other carbon based energy...they all want wind or other "renewable" they all have plenty of wind...we shouldn't have a problem with an endless supply of wind energy with Dems in power. So Bluefield and all of WV are going to continue to suffer economic decline. Did that clear it up for you?

  • Joe

    This has to do with pay raises and work rules....the union just using patients as a way to get what they want. Almost as disgusting as teachers using "the children" the se way.

  • Max

    ObamaCare and the expansion of Medicade are sure to help...maybe a union president or Governor Tomblin or House Speaker Miley (a lawyer like Obama) can come up with a plan to save coal and the WV economy...oh no wait...Obama wants to kill coal and they all support Obama...I was just dreaming for a moment.

  • Smithers from Dennis

    Mercer County in general is a strange place. Bluefield & Princeton do not cooperate---never have and probably never will. One large regional medical center serving both Bluefield and Princeton should have been constructed years ago. They entered an arms race Princeton Community v. Bluefield Regional -- which really failed both communities.

  • Artie Smithers

    Bluefield is a dying town. I've worked there for about 20 years now and the decline in the community during that time has been severe. Basically what you saw happen in McDowell County is creeping up Rt. 52 and will soon overtake Bluefield as well. No jobs, business owners "selling out" and moving to North Carolina, house after house for sale. Just a sad time for a once proud WV city. What is happening at the hospital is just a consequence of a declining and disappearing economy.