Berkshire Eagle: As you drive around Berkshire County you will see signs with a large “Yes or a large “No.” These signs relate to Question 1 on the ballot on Nov. 6. Are Berkshire County nurses in favor or opposed to public question 1? That requires a little fact-checking.
Letters to the editor are split on this issue. Nurses who spearheaded the drive for fair staffing at Berkshire Medical Center this past year line up mostly on the “Yes” side. Doctors, administrators and nurses serving in an administrative capacity line up on the “No” side. The sponsors for the signs for “No” are the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety and the sponsors for “Yes” are the Committee to Insure Patient Safety. The first includes the American Nurses Association (comprised mostly of supervisors) and the second the Massachusetts Nurses Association (comprised mostly of nurses on the front line offering direct patient care). So should we be confused? You bet!
A bit of information to help unravel the issue: Seventy-seven percent of registered nurses report they are assigned too many patients to care for at one time, 86 percent don’t have enough time to educate patients and provide adequate discharge planning, 90 percent don’t have time to comfort and care for patients, 77 percent report medication errors due to unsafe patient assignments, 63 percent say management often ignores their feedback about unsafe patient loads.
Our local hospital system (BHS) recently fought our nurses for several years precipitating a strike and claiming they could not raise staffing levels for nurses despite the fact that they made a profit for years. Massachusetts now gets a statewide vote to protect patients. This is not a question of rigid rules versus flexibility as some of the letters suggest. Flexibility can only be effective when the staffing ratio is adequate. Voting “Yes” sets minimum standards for staffing. This patient question was written by Massachusetts nurses. As a patient who has interacted with nurses three times per week for the past four years and who has had 19 surgeries at BMC, I will be casting a “Yes” vote on Nov. 6 on Question 1 to show support for those on the front line of patient care.