Short-staffing of nurses at BMC jeopardizes patient care

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By Wednesday, May 17 Letters

To the Editor:

For more than a decade, I have been working on behalf of families as an attorney in the Berkshires. I have seen firsthand the challenges our County faces, especially when it comes to health care. One of my priorities as a candidate for State Senate last year was ensuring access to high quality medical care, especially critically needed mental health and addiction treatment here in Berkshire County. Through conversations with local nurses and with thousands of voters throughout the Berkshires I have come to appreciate the challenges hospital patients and nurses contend with in obtaining and providing this vital care.

While BMC has increased profitability by acquiring and closing North Adams Regional Hospital, nurses have found it increasingly difficult to provide safe and effective care due to short staffing and the demands created by complex medical problems experienced by patients at BMC. Not only does BMC see more patients since the closure of NARH, independent reports have demonstrated that BMC patients are sicker and have more medical complications than ever before. This is the result of rising poverty in our community. Many patients who are recovering from surgery or receiving treatment for pneumonia and the like, also have diabetes or hypertension, or are suffering from addiction or mental illness as well. These types of conditions require careful monitoring and complex care that nurses provide.

Nurses are essential component of high quality care for any hospital, and BMC is no exception. Every patient admitted to Berkshire Medical Center must have a registered nurse assigned to their care. RNs undergo years of specialized training to ensure their patients receive the hands-on treatment and education they need to stay safe and get better. This training continues year after year as RNs renew their licenses and remain up-to-date on best practices.

Hospital patients require significant time and attention from nurses because they are so sick. Nurses need patient limits so they are not pushed beyond their ability to deliver safe care. Many of us, our children, grandchildren, parents, and grandparents will need hospital care at some point. When we do, it will be our nurses who provide most of our direct care. They will treat our wounds, administer our medication, and educate our families.

During my campaign, I discovered that Berkshire County nurses are one of few groups that are advocating high quality, affordable, and accessible health care locally and state-wide. The concerns of our nurses are my concerns. I urge the people of Berkshire County to support our local nurses and I implore BMC to reach a fair agreement that provides nurses with tolerable working conditions that will ensure that patients receive the high quality health care that is so essential to all of us throughout the County.

Andrea Harrington



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