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Nurses at Sparrow Hospital Allege Dangerous Patient Conditions Due to Staffing Shortages

David Mittleman

Nurses at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing are alleging that the facility is so understaffed that it is putting patient health and safety in jeopardy. Members of the Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital recently filed complaints with the Michigan Department of Community Health detailing hundreds of instances of unsafe staffing situations. Meanwhile, hospital officials refuse to comment on the nurses’ allegations, but say they are trying to negotiate with the union to increase staffing.

Included in the union’s complaints are allegations of patient falls, medicines that were delivered late, call bells that haven’t been answered, and assessments of patients that haven’t been made due to the shortage of nurses at Sparrow. Sparrow officials admit that patient admissions have increased over the past few years: from 28,740 in 2005 to 32,786 in 2009, an increase of 14%. Sparrow spokesman, John Berg, recently stated that the hospital hasn’t laid off any nurses, but hasn’t increased the nursing staff either.

Sparrow registered nursing staff and health professionals have filed nearly 615 internal staffing concern forms so far this year through August. That compares with 780 for all of 2009 and 309 in 2008. The Michigan Department of Community Health will have to review the complaints to see if there were any breaches in patient care according to state law. If the allegations show violations, the department can then ask the federal government for permission to investigate further. Sparrow could eventually face fines, depending on the results of such an investigation. Earlier this year, Sparrow was cited as one of the worst hospitals in the Mid-Michigan area for heart attack mortality rates in a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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