Ascension Genesys nurses feel exhausted, underappreciated and unsafe as COVID-19 spreads

Nurses say they are stretched thin with a staffing shortage and getting less help than last spring
Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 11:23 AM EST
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GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJRT) - As the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations reaches nearly 3,000 in Michigan, nurses from Ascension Genesys hospital in Grand Blanc Township are feeling taken for granted.

The nurses from Teamsters Local 332 are feeling exhausted, underappreciated and unsafe.

“People are working 16 hour shifts and they’re doing it days in a row," said nurse Kelly Rivera-Craine, who is a union steward at the hospital.

Tuesday evening the steward said there were roughly 80 COVID-19 patients being cared for at Genesys.

Teamsters Local 332 members say a staffing shortage is exacerbating the problem. Contractually, nurses in the medical ICU are only supposed to work with one or two patients based on how sick they are, but one nurse is having to monitor three patients in the critical care unit. The union says nurse to patient ratios are also being undermined in the telemetry and acute care units of the hospital.

Rivera-Craine said that’s dangerous when things can change so quickly. The hospital has incentivized nurses to pick up extra shifts by paying $20 extra per hour.

“Even though they’re adding this incentive for us to come in -- like I said, we appreciate it -- but they need to do it for everybody," Rivera-Craine said.

Another nurse said they are leaving the hospital or the field altogether so there aren’t as many there now as there were in the spring. That’s not just happening in critical care wards, but nurses working non-critical COVID-19 floors are caring for more patients, too.

“We actually had more nurses (in spring) than we do now, and with the decline in the recruitment and retention of ICU nurses we’re going to run into a real problem," said nurse Carolyn Clemons.

She said there are about 80 COVID-19 patients at Ascension Genesys and 16 of them were in intensive care as of Tuesday night. The intensive care unit has 18 beds and nurses say there are not enough nurses or aides, who help in so many ways.

“We don’t have the help that we had in the spring time," Rivera-Craine said. "They had people who they called runners that would help them out with turning the patients, which is vitally important for the COVID patients. They would run and get the medication if they needed anything. They were there just to be an assistant to the nurses.”

The nurses have created a YouTube video expressing their concerns and providing testimonials about the uncertainty they face every day.

Ascension Genesys issued the following statement Tuesday in response to the nurses' concerns:

"The health and safety of our patients, associates and visitors continues to be our top priorities. We follow all CDC guidelines and are working closely with the state to monitor and ensure the best possible care for patients with potential or confirmed cases of COVID-19. "

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