Registered Nurses to address patient safety issues as bargaining begins at CHS hospitals in WV

This week registered nurses represented by the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC), will begin bargaining at two CHS-owned facilities in West Virginia. In December of 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued an order that stipulates both Bluefield Regional Medical Center (BRMC) in Bluefield, and Greenbrier Valley Medical Center (GVMC) in Ronceverte, must bargain with RNs.

GVMC negotiations began on Feb. 27 and BRMC began on Mar. 2.

Both BRMC and GVMC hospital are owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems/CHS, which is one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains, reporting $1.5 billion in profits over the last five years.

“The issues that we need to have addressed are about patient safety including staffing, adequate training for healthcare technology. We are looking forward to bringing these issues forward for our patients in the communities we serve,” said Brenda Meadwell, RN Bluefiedl Regional Medical Center.

CHS’ refusal to address nurses’ widespread concerns about patient safety at both hospitals was the driving force that galvanized RNs to organize and win representation with the NNOC in August of 2012. Since that time, both hospitals have been charged with multiple violations of federal law related to nurses’ efforts to advocate for patients and win economic and workplace fairness.

In May of this year, the National Labor Relations Board held that GVMC violated federal labor law when it disciplined a nurse in retaliation for his union support. The NLRB’s finding against GVMC is consistent with the conduct of other CHS-affiliated hospitals, which has resulted in three federal court injunctions, along with several NLRB decisions finding multiple labor law violations.

RNs have cited a number of issues compromising patient care at both facilities, including:

• Unsafe RN-to-patient staffing ratios throughout a majority of the nursing units.

• Unsafe “floating”- requiring nurses to work in units outside their area of expertise.

• Lack of essential equipment such as thermometer and blood pressure cuffs.

• High turnover and inability to retain experienced nursing staff.

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