SPOKANE: Nurses say it is time for Providence Sacred Heart to put nurse and patient safety before corporate profits. That’s why hundreds of registered nurses, patients and supporters are rallying together in the cold and calling on Providence to listen to Sacred Heart nurses.
“As a nurse, I have my patients’ backs, no matter what, but now I feel like I work for a big corporation that doesn’t have my back,” said KT Raley-Jones, a cardiac intensive care nurse at Sacred Heart. “It wasn’t always this way. Sacred Heart hospital used to be one big family, built on the values of the sisters of Providence. Now it is as if Providence thinks Sacred Heart is a business that provides health care on the side.”
After little movement from Providence during 7 contract bargaining sessions over 4 months, the 1,900 registered nurses at Sacred Heart are taking their concerns about nurse staffing and safe patient care to the community they serve. The nurses are demanding:
- Safe staffing levels: Nurses want each unit in Sacred Heart Medical Center’s facilities to maintain staffing levels, including during meal and rest periods, that ensure safe patient care and the safety of the nurses. This includes safe staffing on the hospital floor, but also staffing that allows nurses to take rest and meal breaks. It includes adequate staffing so that nurses can take their paid time off.
- Safe, rested nurses: Nursing is a physically, emotionally and mentally taxing job, with nurses working 10- or even 12-hour shifts around the clock. Nurses need and deserve time to spend with family and friends, to take a vacation and to recharge. They need to be able to stay home when they’re sick.
“If we thought what Providence wanted would help our patients, we’d do it,” said Clint Wallace, an ICU nurse at Sacred Heart. “We’d do anything to save more lives and heal more people because we’re nurses. That’s why we got into these jobs. But when I’m working through entire shifts with no break or can’t take time off, it isn’t just bad for me, it’s bad for my patients.”
“I was a Sacred Heart patient a few years ago,” said Brian Walter, a Spokane construction worker. “I was going in and out of consciousness due to a severely high fever caused by a severe case of pneumonia. Sacred Heart nurses were there to help save my life. Providence should stop putting profits over patient safety and take care of our nurses like they take care of their patients.”
“We consider Sacred Heart to be a community hospital, but we’re all impacted as family members and patients when Providence doesn’t take care of their nurses,” said Tina Morrison, Secretary-Treasurer of the Spokane Regional Labor Council.
“This is not the first time Providence has tried to put profits over nurse and patient safety,” explained Jan Bussert, President of the Washington State Nurses Association, which represents more than 17,000 nurses. “Across Washington we hear of Providence suits from Seattle coming in to local contract negotiations and demanding nurses sacrifice more, more and more, ultimately putting patient safety on the line. We won’t let them do this to the nurses and patients at Sacred Heart.”