"Be Fair to Those Who Care." These words from a sign exhibited during a recent rally in support of the Munson nurses were the central theme of the presentation at the Traverse Area District Library on Tuesday, November 13. Most in attendance were surprised to hear the difficulties the nurses and the Michigan Nurses Association have been having in their efforts to solidify a union contract.
After detailing the comfortable financial situation of the hospital and a discussion of the lucrative executive salaries, a comparison was made about how the cost of living in the Grand Traverse Area has risen continually but the salaries of the nurses have not.
Many nurses who work at Munson cannot afford to live within a comfortable drive of the hospital. And single parents, who make up a large percentage of the staff, cannot afford their share of the payments for the health insurance for their family.
Then the nurses spoke of their real concerns – that the situation in which they are expected to work does not insure a safe environment for patient care. Studies show that the incident of mistakes grows substantially after a nurse has worked eight hours. Most nurses are scheduled to work twelve-hour shifts. Yet the administration is enforcing mandatory overtime if there is a staffing shortage. There seems to be a constant staffing shortage because the low salaries are not attracting qualified nurses. Any nurse who can, will go downstate for a much better salary. And, after a nurse works a sixteen-hour shift, she is guaranteed only eight hours before having to be back to work another shift. Many nurses live more than a thirty-minute drive from the hospital. Sleep deprivation is a constant problem.
Members of the community were encouraged to ask questions and the presenters were happy to provide the requested information. There was some group discussion about what the community can do to help.
Munson is a good hospital and offers quality care. There are two reasons for this. First, because Munson basically has a monopoly on health care in Northern Michigan, they get a large amount of government funding for the latest medical equipment. Secondly, and no less important, is the quality of the nurses.
Because our local newspaper is greatly influenced by Munson, their coverage of the negotiations has been slanted. That’s why the nurses are asking for help getting their side of the story out into the community.
Go to munsonnurses.org for updates about the negotiations of the union contract. You can get a ‘We Support Munson Nurses’ sign for your yard at the NMA office across from Right Brain Brewery. Ask about upcoming events. A newly formed organization, the Northern Michigan Alliance for Healthcare Justice, is preparing activities to include the community in these important efforts to make Munson a safer environment for patient care. For more information, contact Phil.firstname.lastname@example.org.