Brigham nurses call for DPH investigation into hospital compliance with COVID-related surgical reduction order

Dec. 15, 2021

Nurses from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have called for an investigation into whether Mass General Brigham (MGB) is complying with the Department of Public Health (DPH) order to reduce non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures in a letter sent Monday, December 13, 2021, according to a Massachusetts Nurses Association release.

Brigham nurses do not believe MGB is complying with the DPH’s order to maintain 15% staff bed availability or to reduce by 30% (and further to 50% as of December 15 non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures from the 2019 volume. They say there is a lack of patient beds, long holds on patients needing beds following surgery, patients with traumatic surgical needs going without a surgical room or adequate staff, and patients waiting in the emergency department while cosmetic and other non-urgent procedures continue to be prioritized in the operating room, taking up already insufficient staff resources that could be used for urgent cases.

“Almost every day, the OR starts without enough core staff. Yet the hospital continues to run the OR at a high volume, disregarding its own staffing standards and the recommendations of the Association of Peri-operative Registered Nurses. Nurses on orientation are being pulled into cases where they are not competent. The hospital is also relying on travelers who do not have proper experience. As a result of these hazardous conditions, at least four OR nurses have quit in recent weeks. The continued high volume of procedures, combined with the staffing and skill mix problems, is negatively impacting the quality of patient care, and burning out the nursing workforce.” 

When the Baker-Polito Administration announced the initial DPH order on November 23, it was described as a strategy to “conserve inpatient hospital capacity and to protect patients and the healthcare workforce” as the state faces a surge in patient volume and acuity due to deferred care from earlier in the pandemic and a surge in COVID-19 cases. MGB has acknowledged it is not in compliance with the 15% bed capacity and therefore must reduce non-urgent procedures.

MGB has also acknowledged, in testimony filed on November 9, 2021 with the Health Policy Commission, that “burnout and emotional exhaustion are palpable across Mass General Brigham.”

MGB clearly has the resources to comply with the order and listen to nurses. On December 10, the same day the DPH changed its order to 50% of non-essential procedures, MGB announced it had made $442 million in profits in fiscal year 2021, ending September 30. MGB received $232 million from the CARES Act this year, on top of $546 million received last year, according to the Boston Globe. The organization reported $15.7 billion in total revenue.

MNA release

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