Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I owe a huge debt of gratitude to thePetitionSite.com, to Care2.com, CitizenSpeak.org, World-inet.com and this Blogspot Site for giving me a voice. Like a high tech “Speakers Corner,” a loud hailer on the world, the Internet can only help us to proclaim the truth with dedicated Websites like these. Humble citizens feel really helpless to fight injustice when all the press can focus on is Corporate grandstanding and sensationalist horror. I have certainly come to appreciate all the Internet Blog sites that have posted my comments or helped publicize this issue: CommonDreams.org, AlterNet.org, BillFarkas.com, “The Justice Brigade” on My Space, “Talk back to Al” (Lewis) and informative Medical threads like AllNurses.com and “Every Patient’s Advocate.” There are countless others I have yet to find on the web as the people’s voice grows louder by the day. The Internet gives ordinary people a unique opportunity to speak out at a time when the media is fast becoming a wanton propaganda machine by ignoring any responsibility to conscientiously inform the public.

In my last post, “An Exhausted Surgical Team Endangers the Patient,”
I posed the question: “How Long is Too Long for a Member of the Sterile OR Team to Remain Continuously Scrubbed into Surgery without a break?”

I recently contacted a well respected investigative reporter with the local Baltimore newspaper to explain my case and ask him to make inquiries at my former Hospital. He told me that staff left stranded scrubbed into Surgery for twelve hours without a break wasn’t really a story and it wasn’t worthy of any investigation. Before it would become an issue that he might look into “people” (yes he did say “people” plural) would have to die as a result of this negligence! Can you imagine the court case: “We were really sorry your mum died in Surgery due to a completely avoidable error, but my scrub had been bursting for a pee for over eight hours and her supervisor claimed she didn’t ask to be relieved?” Now that would make headlines all right!

At my Arbitration Hearing my former Hospital admitted on tape to leaving me stranded in Surgery for a period that was documented in the final ruling as 16hours (it was in fact 12hours) without relief. What is truly shocking is that 12 or 16hours of continuous work without water, food or urination was considered acceptable practice and not inhumane treatment of staff. It was OK simply because my Nurse Manager said that I hadn’t asked for a break.This shameful admission was also made to the Maryland Board of Nursing, EEOC and the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, but they all accepted the same fictitious excuse that would have made no sense even if it were true. Not one of these agencies bothered to consider the danger to the patient that any normal employee might present by working until they nearly passed out in Surgery.
Shame on Maryland Board of Nursing this is a very dangerous practice. Did EEOC or MCHR protect my human rights? No.

Fact: Nursing staff do not willingly accept or enjoy being “tortured” in the work place by inconsiderate Managers.

The onus should never be placed on an employee to beg for humane treatment so that they can concentrate while at work. It is the sole responsibility of Management to meet the basic needs of staff so that they can function safely in critical clinical roles without severe discomfort and deprivation that might ultimately cause undue risk to their patients. This issue must be addressed by Nursing Boards across the US.

We do not need to look to third world countries for newsworthy stories of abused and exploited employees suffering in the work place, it is happening here in the US and the public deserves to know what is going on. There is a duty to inform the public, in order to try and prevent inhumane treatment of staff regardless of whether even a single patient actually dies as a result. The same seasoned investigative journalist then said he needed evidence from a “recognized authority” that going without water, food or a chance to relieve oneself for over twelve hours while working was actually detrimental to the Surgical team functioning safely in the OR! I thought it was a “no-brainer.” While normal physical requirements for sustenance are already well documented in medical literature this was not enough to satisfy his verification of the facts. It was solid evidence that staff deprivation had already caused a number of patient deaths that might finally grab his attention.

In explaining himself he argued, why should the general public be unduly scared by the prospect of a potential risk? I say, how well would most people respond to such inhumane deprivation? I believe this is vital, because without public pressure via the media not only will Hospitals continue to take risks, our public agencies will blithely condone this dangerous conduct as irrelevant to patient safety, just as they did in my case. Would it be so terribly irresponsible for a reporter to warn readers that a situation existed in our Hospitals that was known to be unhealthy as well as downright cruel to Medical staff? In turn such deprivation might adversely impact the care of their loved ones receiving treatment, but then why should this consideration be the sole reason to take action? According to the journalist I spoke to there was no duty to inform the public of a potential risk, I needed to prove that people had died as a direct result of this ongoing negligence.
The Maryland Board of Nursing have no intention of investigating this issue and I doubt that any safeguards I suggested to them will ever be put in place without a major public outcry.

The truck drivers were prevented from hours of continuous driving due to the risk this posed to other motorists on the road: I guess a number of accidents occurred to prompt tighter restrictions. Even while under way a truck driver can pull over in a lay by to take a pee, plus they can still have a drink of water or eat a sandwich in the cab. Imagine if you couldn’t even scratch an itch for twelve hours straight! I am not suggesting that we bring snacks into the OR, but please know that Medical staff are human too. Airline companies do not refuse food and water to Pilots during a long haul flight by saying “the passengers have to come first.” By the way, how many of the passengers could avoid using the toilets all the way from London to Singapore? When Medical staff urgently need a relief break we are told that: “the patients must come first.” This is used to justify inhumane exploitation of staff. Run to the bathroom or take a quick bite to eat and you could be charged with “Patient Abandonment?”

We are horrified to learn of impoverished workers in third world sweat shops who are stuck behind machines for twelve hours of near slavery. Are they also deprived of food or water and prohibited from performing necessary bodily functions for twelve hours? At least some of these workers are seated. We usually stand throughout Surgery, but is twelve hours of standing under hot OR lights too much for the super-human Surgical team? Obviously Hospital Managers do not think we deserve to be treated like normal mortals; unfortunately the press would seem to agree. The Geneva Convention does not permit such deprivation to be inflicted on working POWs, so why is this “torture” acceptable for Medical staff doing highly technical life and death jobs in our Hospitals?
"Sorry about the inhumane treatment, but the jury is out because we are still waiting for patients to die as a consequence?"

The real crime of “Patient Abandonment.” is being committed by our Hospitals through the “Deliberate Negligent Understaffing” of clinical units. This dangerous staffing policy is excused by any cursory mention of the so called “Nursing Crisis” that these facilities consciously created in order to cut costs and bloat profits. Management can persist in forcing Nursing staff to continue working when they are dangerously fatigued and deprive them of basic human rights by threatening them with discipline and charges of abandonment. Refuse to work a double 16hour shift, mandatory overtime or take call because you know that you simply cannot safely continue working after long hours of stressful service and you too can be charged with “Patient Abandonment.”

Ignoring the real issue of staff fatigue places patients at serious risk due to increased incidences of exhausted staff making medical errors. However, when a patient is harmed the Medical facilities responsible for “Deliberate Negligent Understaffing” of their clinical units continually manage to deflect true accountability by blaming their overstressed staff with devastating charges of incompetence. It is truly alarming to discover how easily the public have accepted these warped and erroneous portrayals of incompetent Doctors and lazy, uncaring Nurses being responsible for the growing number of Sentinel Events in Healthcare. No one wants to be incorrectly labeled incompetent so the Nurses continue to leave in droves.

The current “Nursing Exodus” is a direct response to this impossible choice that staff are being forced to cope with. If the working environment became less toxic and more humane, if Nursing staff knew that they did not have to take risks with the care and safety of their patients, many would return to our beleaguered Hospitals. We need new legislation to put appropriate safeguards in place immediately. We need safe Nurse to patient ratios, an end to mandatory overtime, a humane relief break policy, the ability to call in sick without penalty, a safe mix of experienced and newly graduated staff, less reliance on temporary help and more regular staff to deliver safe patient care. This process will start when authorities finally recognize that all staff must be treated with humanity and there is no excuse for torturous conditions in any workplace. Those who blow the whistle on negligent practices must be protected from retaliation and listened to by our public agencies, government regulatory bodies and, when necessary, a conscientious investigative journalist.

Would you function dangerously knowing that a mistake at your job could kill your patient? You could tell your Manager, and get fired. You could report to “Risk Management” or a “Compliance Line,” and they will aid and abet in your untimely removal without cause. You could report to independent regulatory bodies and they will expect you to have reported internally first. They ignore the fact that doing so cost you your job; you have now become an unreliable informant seeking revenge so therefore they consider there’s no need to investigate.
You could go to the local press, but they are waiting for “people to die” before they are certain that the problem must to taken seriously. They might also prefer to wait until a “recognized authority” is prepared to state publicly that torturing Medical staff might pose a threat to the safety of their patients, before they will encourage a public outcry. You could spill the beans on the Internet in a Blog like this or post a Petition on thePetitionSite.com. Will it do any good? Will anybody listen?

To review and consider signing my Petition go to: