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Menorah Medical Center Nurses Seek Higher Wages, Better Staffing

Cody Newill
Nurses and activists picketed Friday outside Menorah Medical Center, seeking higher wages and better staffing.

More than 100 nurses and activists gathered outside Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park Friday to protest what they say are unfair work conditions.

According to data provided by the hospital to the nurses, 59 percent of shifts in one of the hospital's surgical units weren't adequately staffed. The protesters also say that Kansas nurses are paid $3 less than the national average wage.

Linda Schall has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years. She says understaffing forces Menorah nurses to work 12-hour shifts without breaks, which can lead to bad practices.

Credit Cody Newill / KCUR
RN Linda Schall speaks through a bullhorn as protesters listen. Schall said Menorah Medical Center's work conditions make it hard for nurses like herself to provide high-quality care for patients.

"Out of a three month period, 365 meal breaks were missed," Schall said as she waved a picket sign at passersby. "When you have nurses that are fatigued or tired, there's a higher incidence of possible medical errors."

Summer Baker is a nurse in Menorah's intensive care unit and emergency room. She says the hospital simply needs to follow its own staffing plan to make conditions better for patients.

"If they comply with their (plan), the nurses will be more likely to be able to assist patients in a more timely and efficient manner," Baker said. "Getting people to the bathroom when they need to, giving them pain medication to help promote healing and then being able observe the patient afterward and monitor their safety."

In response to the protests, Christine Hamele with Menorah's parent company, HCA Midwest Health, pointed to Menorah's commitment to high-quality care and its recognition in 2014 as a "Top Performer on Key Quality Measures" by the Joint Commission, an accreditor of health care organizations.

"We are always focused on staffing to appropriately meet our patients' needs," she said in an email. 

She added: "Activity like this sometimes occurs when a union and an employer are engaged in contract negotiations, as we are with this union, and we want to make sure that our community understands that neither this nor any other action will ever come between us and commitment to quality, safe patient care and services to our patients and this community."

Negotiations between the nurses' union, National Nurses United, and Menorah are set to resume on Aug. 12. 

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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