Unions call for state intervention over post-strike patient care concerns at Connecticut hospital

Presidents of three unions are asking Connecticut officials to help address their concerns regarding patient care at Hartford HealthCare's Windham and Backus hospitals.

In a letter to the state department of public health, shared with Becker's, the heads of Backus Federation of Nurses, Windham Federation of Professional Nurses and WCMH United Employees claim Hartford HealthCare is jeopardizing patient safety by keeping some floors at Willimantic, Conn.-based Windham Hospital closed following a two-day strike at the facility.

"It is now a week later, and Windham Hospital has refused to reopen 4 North (the progressive care unit) and Greer (the medical-surgical unit with telemetry capabilities)," the unions, which are part of AFT Connecticut, wrote in the letter.

The unions contend the telemetry floor is the only one open and that "instead of reopening the other units, Windham Hospital is putting high acuity patients that belong in a PCU on a telemetry floor where nurses cannot properly monitor them, and is sending patients to other hospitals. These are patients that we could care for if the PCU was open."

Additionally, they claim that patients coming out of operation at Windham Hospital are being placed on the same floor as patients diagnosed with COVID-19, and that Hartford HealthCare's "refusal to open two of its three floors is also placing strains on other hospitals including Backus Hospital in Norwich and the Backus Hospital emergency department in Plainfield."

Unions are now urging the state to use every legal means possible to address their concerns.

Windham Hospital denies the union's claims.

"Windham Hospital is aware of this complaint from the AFT union," the hospital said in a statement shared with Becker's. "These allegations are simply not true. Beds are available at the hospital, as well as the staff to care for patients. As always, protocols are in place to ensure that our patients get the right care, at the right time and at the right place. Safety is a core value for us at Windham Hospital, and it’s our top priority at all times."

In a statement to the Hartford Courant, Chris Boyle, department of public health spokesperson, said the department "is reviewing the concerns that union representatives have presented. Please note that throughout the nursing strike, the department of public health deployed monitors from the facility licensing and investigations section to ensure continuity of quality and safe patient care."

The strike began Sept. 22 and ended Sept. 24.

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