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"They need to hire more nurses": Port Charlotte nurses protest for more staff

Nurses and supporters stood outside the hospital with signs calling for more staff to be hired.
Posted at 7:50 AM, Jul 09, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — On Monday, in the midst of new contract negotiations, nurses and supporters stood outside the HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte to protest what they called a nursing shortage.

The nurses are represented by the National Nurses United union, which said it has been in contract negotiations with the hospital since the spring, and the most recent contract expired on July 1.

Janet Mayl
Janet Mayl, RN, speaks with Fox 4's Charlotte County Community Correspondent Alex Orenczuk.

Janet Mayl, who has worked at the hospital for the last 27 years, the last 16 as a registered nurse, said a lack of nurses at the hospital is causing patient care to suffer.

“The timeliness of administering medications, of patients being on the call light and there's nobody to go answer it, whether it's for pain medication or bleeding,” said Mayl. “I mean, anything can arise when a patient puts on the call light and they have to wait 50 or 60 minutes for a nurse. You know, even the hygiene, making sure they're bathed and brushing your teeth, those kinds of things are all important. And it's not happening.”

According to NNU, some nurses in some departments in the hospital are operating at a 7-1 patient to nurse ratio.

“Right now, things are very hard for the nurses,” said Mayl. “They're given a lot of patients for one nurse, and there's not a lot of ancillary staff to help out. So, that kind of dwindles to the kind of care that the patients are receiving.”

Less staff equals less care
A protester wears a shirt that says "less staff equals less care".

Mayl said that part of the staffing issue stems from lower wages compared to other area hospitals.

“They need to hire more nurses, and unfortunately, that's where the wages come in,” said Mayl. “Because currently we're not being paid what the surrounding area is paying. So, it's kind of hard to get a nurse to come in and work when they're not getting paid when they can go up the road and get paid way more money.”

Valerie Jean
Valerie Jean, RN, speaks with Fox 4's Charlotte County Community Correspondent Alex Orenczuk.

Valerie Jean, a registered nurse in the float pool department at the hospital said she hopes the hospital takes their concerns into consideration, especially for the benefit of the patients.

“We want the hospital to listen when we say we need more nurses at the bedside,” said Jean. “We see first hand what could be prevented and could be done if we had more resources as far as nurses go.”

HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte.

A hospital spokesperson provided Fox 4 with a statement regarding the protest, stating the hospital has appropriate staffing:

“At HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital, our staffing is safe and appropriate. We are proud of the high-quality, compassionate care we provide, which has been recognized by independent third-party patient safety and quality rating organizations like Healthgrades which named Fawcett Hospital as one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals for Vascular Surgery in 2023 and 2024 and one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for both Orthopedic Surgery and Spine Surgery for the last three years.

In 2023, Fawcett Hospital provided more than $116 million in employee salaries and benefits and hired more than 160 registered nurses in the last year and a half. Additionally, almost $600,000 has been allocated to projects identified by our hospital nurses as important to ensuring their ongoing ability to provide high quality care.

Activity like this sometimes occurs when a union and an employer are engaged in negotiations for a contract, as we are with National Nurses United (NNU). Today’s activity is no different than similar actions NNU has taken against health systems across the country. We value our nurses and are hopeful that we can reach an agreement on a new contract that is fair and reasonable for both sides.”
HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital spokesperson

Nurses at the protest told Fox 4 that its possible they could strike if their concerns are not addressed.