Nurses claim Steward Health puts profits before patients

Nurses from seven states (Massachusetts, New York, Washington, D.C., California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Nevada) are heading to New York City to protest expanding hospital operator Steward Health Care System, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).

The nurses scheduled to gather today outside the offices of Cerberus Capital Management, Steward's owner, protest the company's "predatory practices" that they say are jeopardizing patient care in exchange for profits.

"As patient advocates on the frontlines, nurses are sounding the alarm about the entrance of cut-throat private equity firms, like Cerberus, into the health care marketplace," Karen Higgins, nurse and co-president of National Nurses United said in an MNA press release yesterday.

Nurses claim Cerberus-Steward has not only failed to uphold quality patient care standards but also has slashed staffing levels, eliminated specialty units, and dropped nurses' benefit pension plan, reports the Taunton Daily Gazette.

According to the MNA press release, Cerberus-Steward patients are "treated like products on an assembly line," while nurses who speak up to protect patients are fired.

Steward denied the the allegations as part of MNA's "militant national agenda," hospital operator spokesman Chris Murphy told the Daily Gazette. Murphy also pointed out hospital quality improvements since Steward's takeover, such as a 19.2 percent drop in mortality and 80 percent reduction in drug-resistant infections, the article notes.

Meanwhile, 10 hospitals in California are preparing for 6,000 nurses to walk off the job on Thursday. Although union and hospital officials say the 24-hour strike won't affect patient care, MemorialCare Health System and Sutter Health will have to shell out millions of dollars to hire replacement nurses, reports the Los Angeles Times.

To learn more:
- read the Taunton Daily Gazette article
- read the MNA statement
- here's the Los Angeles Times article