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.”