June 28, 2016

Staffing levels could hurt accreditation, nurses union warns

Andy Lyman

University of New Mexico Hospital

The head of a local nurses union said she plans to raise concerns about staffing issues at the University of New Mexico Hospital to the accreditation agency that rates medical institutions.

University of New Mexico Hospital

Andy Lyman

University of New Mexico Hospital

In a letter written Monday to hospital officials, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199 President Lorie MacIver accuses top brass at UNMH of “failure to at least engage in a real and serious discussion hospital-wide about staffing.”

This reasoning, MacIver writes, is enough “to inform you that we will be writing to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) requesting that they review UNMH’s ‘commitment to creating a positive nursing practice environment’ to ensure the commitment is real.’”

She adds writing to ANCC is also an attempt to make sure “we don’t experience what happened when UNM’s Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation due to failures of the Health Sciences Center,” which oversees the hospital.

As NM Political Report first reported in April, UNM’s Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation after what a university spokesman described as “loss of faculty over the past year in a highly competitive national environment.”

MacIver argued that retention issues in the hospital’s nursing staff could lead to the same problems at the hospital.

“We’re hoping to open a dialogue with the hospital to say, ‘You’ve got serious issues,’” MacIver said in an interview. “Maybe it will take the credentialing people to say, ‘We need you to address the issues we have.’”

UNMH is currently seeking Magnet Recognition Program status, which is the most prestigious form of recognition that ANCC offers.

“Institutions that meet the stringent criteria exhibit a commitment to a higher standard of care and improved patient outcomes,” UNMH writes on its website of Magnet status.

MacIver said the hospital system currently won’t let her see staff data to see where nurse retention levels sit. Last time she had access to this data, MacIver said retention rates were around 14 percent, above the national average of 12 percent. One intensive care unit of 24 beds, according to MacIver, is staffed with nine nurses when it should have 12 nurses.

She argued that staffing levels will be imperative to whether ANCC awards UNMH its Magnet status.

“Magnet status is not just about, ‘Did we file all these papers, check all these boxes?’” MacIver said. “It’s about an institution that is nurse-promoting and nurse-supporting.”

MacIver said she plans to submit her letter about staffing issues to ANCC sometime this week.

It comes as part of negotiations over a new contract between the union and the hospital that will affect roughly 4,000 union-covered nurses, housekeepers, radiologists, pharmacists and other.

UNMH spokesman John Arnold responded to NM Political Report a written statement saying that the hospital “is fully committed to providing the highest quality care to its patients, which would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our talented staff.”

“While we do not comment on ongoing contract negotiations, we are committed to continued productive discussions with union representatives,” Arnold said. “We will continue to participate in good faith negotiations to reach an accord.”

Last week, the nurses union walked out of negotiations with the hospital after a dispute over the rise of health care costs for the roughly 4,000 union-covered nurses, housekeepers, radiologists, pharmacists and others.

Specifically, MacIver said the health care increases would add deductible costs of $50 per person and $100 per family to current costs of roughly $250 for singles and $500 per families.

Current hospital employee contracts expire June 30, but they are “evergreen” and will last an additional year beyond that date as long as negotiations continue without a new deal. If a deal can’t be reached by next summer, the process would go to arbitration, where an independent judge would make the final contract decision.

Read the union’s letter below:

Letter Re. Magnet Status to CNO at UNMH, [Version a] Sheena Ferguson. 06.26.2016. by New Mexico Political Report