BURLINGTON, VT — More than 100 licensed nursing assistants (LNAs), nurses and community members gathered outside the UVM Medical Center (UVM MC) Board of Trustees’ meeting after revelations that the hospital was under investigation for violations of the Patients Bill of Rights (Act 153).
Deb Snell, Executive Vice President of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals – VFNHP – the union that represents nurses and technical professionals at UVM MC, says that when the union requested information in connection with the staffing crisis at the hospital, “The information we requested raised more questions than answers. The data showed that some units were chronically understaffed. It is unclear if the hospital administration has been consistently complying with the Patients Bill of Rights, which requires posting of staffing and patient census data.”
A majority LNAs and other patient care support staffing have been organizing since the fall for safe patient staffing, respect and the right to negotiate as equals with the UVM Medical Center administration.
“I don’t see my work as a job, but as providing care so a patient can get back into the community,” Caitlyn Couture, an LNA on the union organizing committee told those gathered. “I’ve seen patients that may not have family or visitors for whatever the circumstances. I’m there to provide a set of ears, to hold a child and interact, and even to provide a small gift during the holidays so my patient knows that someone is thinking about them. When we’re short staffed, we cannot provide even basic care, much less the kind of care our patients deserve.”
Those gathered held signs referring to UVM Medical Center administrators making more than $1.8 million dollars per year in compensation. LNA Linda Ryan told the those in attendance that she took a significant pay cut to work at the hospital despite the cost of living being higher in Vermont than upstate NY. “Every night I lay awake trying to decide what to do. We need a union so we can be in better position to negotiate for what we need to live comfortably where we work.”
At the end of the Medical Center’s Board of Trustees meeting, most administrators and Board members chose to leave the meeting in a side exit to avoid those gathered outside the meeting.