Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006


Cindy Hasz: A RELUCTANT PROPHET OF NURSING HOME REFORM
by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.

SAN DIEGO -- I used to think getting fired was the end of the world= , the scarlet F; it was the equivalent of going to the brig, or getting run=

out of town on a rail. Now I recognize that -- for me, anyway -- it has be= en a promotion and the final door to job security. This time, it's fine ill= ustration of the axiom that what may appear to be a big setback in life can= turn out to be the brightest of blessings.

The first time it happened, the shame that accompanied it almost buried = me alive. I got fired at a nursing home when I made waves over the lack of = adequate staff to care for our elderly patients.

My crime was that I stuck up for the nurses who were being abused by a = scapegoating management. Then I went to the board of directors to fight for= the patients who were suffering.

By that time I knew my days were numbered, so I thought I'd make myself= a real nuisance by faxing the CEO daily, advising him on restructuring nur= se-patient ratios to produce the "quality care" that the marketing departme= nt promised. Somehow, the wisdom of my recommendations eluded him.

The nurses I'd known and worked with for years shunned me. As usual in h= ealth care, the bottom line was balanced on the back of line staff -- in th= is as in most cases, all women nurses.

Staff was cut drastically to maximize profits, nurses were burning out = and patients were neglected. Few nurses would voice their protests, largely= out of fear of losing their jobs but also due to a deeply-ingrained female= masochism endemic to caregivers called "dedication to the job at any cost.= " A dubious dedication, indeed, that makes martyrs of nurses and patients a= like.

I got over that first fall from grace by writing a scathing OpEd for the= local paper that won some accolades and opened the door to publishing else= where. I discovered my voice and things to say about standing up for your n= eighbor.

That piece was about everyday abuse that passes for normal in most nursi= ng homes. The management gnashed their teeth when they read it but did not = change their ways.

Long after the article was compost, there was still only one C.N.A. (Ce= rtified Nurse's Assistant) taking care of 10 to 15 (mostly full-care) patie= nts. That load is still common in the nursing home industry and far too hea= vy for anyone to carry.

Five years later after the article and my firing, staff-patient ratios a= re all the legislative rage:

  • There's California State Assembly B= ill 394, which would take effect in in January 2002, that will change nurse= -patient ratios in acute-care hospitals.
  • And under Assembly Bill 1075, = also winding its way through the legislature, nursing home staffing ratios = would also be reduced. By 2002, one direct care-giver is to be required for= every seven patients, and by 2004, one for every five.

It's about time hospital and nursing home managers begin to staff their = facilities with not only dollars-and-cents but common-sense caring in mind.=

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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