McLaren Lapeer nurses demanding better conditions

As hospitals across the country continue to find themselves short-staffed, picketing nurses in mid-Michigan are demanding better working conditions.
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 10:38 PM EDT|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 10:42 AM EDT
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LAPEER, Mich. (WNEM) - As hospitals across the country continue to find themselves short-staffed, picketing nurses in mid-Michigan are demanding better working conditions.

Nurses are saying they are overworked, and the pandemic is an excuse of the past.

“Patient safety is our number one priority and we’re going to do everything in our power as a united team to make sure that our patients are cared for and our nurses are protected,” said Carie Babcock, the president of the Michigan Nurses Association’s local at McLaren Lapeer.

Nurses rallied in front of McLaren Lapeer Regional Hospital demanding administrators offer what they say is a fair contract. They said the hospital has failed to abide by the nurse-to-patient ratios called for in their previous contract that expired May 9.

“What we’re looking for is a mechanism in our contract to make McLaren be held accountable to follow those ratios and ensure that when patients come in here, they’re taken care of. We’re the eyes and ears for the doctors, and so if we have too many patients, we can’t tell subtle changes that can save a patient’s life,” Babcock said.

“The last two years since I’ve been hired on has been anything from, you know, nine to one, six to one for 10 months straight,” said Meredith Slanec, a registered nurse.

Nurses said staffing at the hospital is inadequate, which is affecting the quality of care they can provide to a patient.

“We deal with meds, we’re dealing with, you know, charting, correct charting, and that’s very important, that is a very important part of our job. And so, when we have all the things that we’re doing, it just makes it that much harder to have effective patient care and safe patient care,” Slanec said.

They said they understand the pandemic made staffing worse, but they also said COVID can’t be an excuse anymore.

Negotiations began in March. The next scheduled meeting is May 25.

“Let’s do what we need to do. Let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s peel some layers off and see what we can do,” Slanec said.

The nurses say if hospital executives do not come to the bargaining table with a proposal that addresses their concerns, they are prepared to escalate to the next level, which is a vote to strike.

“We are committed to working with the union to reach a fair and competitive contract for our nurses at our hospital. We began negotiations on a new contract in March, and we have reached an agreement on numerous enhancements that benefit our nurses,” said Mary Spanke, chief nursing officer for McLaren Lapeer Region. “Our hospital’s priority is to deliver safe, quality care to our patients, and we will continue to work with the union that represents our nurses to meet our community’s healthcare needs.”

In addition, McLaren Lapeer Region said it is operating normally during the union activity and there is no impact on emergency care of scheduled appointments.

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