HCN News & Notes

Nurses Protest Bed Closures at Providence Hospital, Safety Conditions at Mercy

SPRINGFIELD — Mercy Medical Center and Providence Behavioral Health Hospital nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Assoc. (MNA)  and joined by a large coalition of families, advocates, and colleagues, held a press conference and demonstrated on June 4, protesting the proposed closure of 74 child and adult psychiatric beds at Providence and what they call unfair treatment and unsafe conditions perpetuated by Trinity Health at Mercy during the pandemic.

“Getting the message that these beds are essential to so many families through to a billion-dollar corporation based in Michigan is an immense challenge, and so we are calling on local board members to represent the public-health needs of their communities,” said Cindy Chaplin, an RN at Providence and co-chair of the MNA bargaining committee. “The chair of the board tasked with making sure the hospital fulfills its healthcare mission has come out in favor of the closure. Others have remained silent. This is unacceptable to those of us who believe the duty of a hospital’s board is to provide local oversight and ensure access to safe, quality care.”

Alex Wright, RN and co-chair of the MNA bargaining committee at Mercy Medical Center, added that “Trinity’s behavior is actually making it harder for staff to safely care for patients and support our families during this pandemic. They are not listening to nurses and healthcare workers on the front lines and are ignoring the concerns expressed by members of our community and elected officials.”

On May 15, the state Department of Public Health found the 74 beds are “necessary for preserving access and health,” and that Trinity Health must prepare a plan showing how it will maintain access to inpatient psychiatric and pediatric services, and reveal information about how it sought psychiatrists before deciding to close beds. The DPH finding followed a virtual public meeting in which nurses and healthcare professionals, patients, elected officials, and residents advocated to keep the beds open to ensure access to quality, specialized psychiatric treatment.

The MNA also claims Trinity has also not consistently provided proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff at Mercy, has not appropriately isolated COVID-19-positive patients and suspected COVID-19 patients, and has canceled or laid off staff rather than provide fair redeployment and paid-time-off protocols.