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RN Questions Pediatric Unit’s Closing

June 19, 2018 GMT

In response to the recent press releases from UMassMemorial Clinton Hospital regarding the closure of the Leominister pediatric unit, I feel that the voice of a registered nurse with more than 35 years of current service to Leominster hospital should also be heard. It is true that the pediatric unit is not as active as it once was. Patients are being managed medically more aggressively as outpatients than they were 15 years ago. In addition, there have been other internal factors.

Several months ago, the surgeons of pediatric patients who were potentially requiring an overnight stay were told to send their patients to Worcester for the surgery. This directive came ong before the announcement was made to the community on June 1.

What is the plan for any pediatric surgical patients at Leominster Hospital who require an unplanned overnight stay? Do we keep the PACU open all night? Do we send them down to Worcester in an ambulance?

Ten years ago, when our pediatric patients completed the acute phase of their post surgical recovery, they were transferred to the pediatric unit for the remainder of their recovery under the watchful eyes of highly skilled pediatric nurses. I’m not sure why we stopped that practice, but that felt like exceptional care for our pedi patients and their families.

Four years ago, a clause was agreed upon between the nurses bargaining unit (The MNA) and the hospital administration that all of the RNs on the unit adjacent to pediatrics would be cross-trained to facilitate safe, effective care to both adult and pediatric patients. This would have met the challenge of staffing the fluctuating needs of both departments. The proposed cross-training never occurred for reasons unknown to us.

Almost daily, our patients have to wait hours for a medical surgical post-operative room to become available because the hospital is full. Why? Because they’ve closed a unit (yes, the one next to pediatrics) which is full of beds. Many of the patients we care for have had their elective surgery booked for months in advance. We now have to hold these patients in the PACU until a Med/Surge post-op room becomes available, delaying a carefully planned post-op course of therapy and activity.

When we were an independent hospital, under the stewardship of Patrick Muldoon, we were able to operate with a surplus of financial resources. We have merged with the health conglomerate in Worcester and suddenly we’re operating at a deficit and Leominster Hospital is eliminating integral services to the community it serves. Why?

Hilary Van Ness, RN

Leominster Hospital