V.I. nurses protests Luis Hospital dismissals

The original article can be found in: Virgin Islands Daily News By Aldeth Lewin

ST. THOMAS – Nurses in both districts Thursday took to the streets to protest Luis Hospital’s decision to fire 86 licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants.

The dozens of dismissed nurses on St. Croix were joined by registered nurses and other health care staff in front of Sunny Isle Shopping Center for a peaceful demonstration.

To show solidarity for the nurses who lost their jobs on St. Croix, a group of Schneider Hospital nurses and staff marched from Charlotte Amalie High School to the hospital with colorful signs that read: “Nurses unite as one!”

The St. Croix nurses were dismissed Tuesday with no warning, although the hospital’s board previously had approved a plan to staff the facility with only registered nurses to achieve Magnet Status for Luis Hospital by 2016.

The move is expected to save the hospital $4.1 million annually in salaries and attract patients from outside the territory, according to hospital officials.

V.I. Licensed Practical Nurses Association St. Croix District President Bertile Ballot Bruney led the protest Thursday afternoon. She said the out-of-work nurses do not have many options.

“Things are really rough. Doctor offices don’t really have anything,” she said. “Some people can’t really relocate. It’s rough.”

“We have no place to go. We have one hospital. No place to go,” Bruney said.

She said she is also concerned about jeopardizing quality patient care.

“The emergency room is all backed up,” she said.

Thursday, Luis Hospital put out a statement saying that nurse-to-patient ratios – one nurse to every four patients – have been maintained at all times. The hospital currently employs about 90 registered nurses.

The nurses who marched on St. Thomas said they wanted to support the nurses on St. Croix.

“We wanted to be in solidarity with them, so we decided to have a small march,” said V.I. State Nursing Association District II President Merla Kimball.

The St. Thomas and St. John nurses are thankful that the Schneider Hospital administration and board have not decided to fire nurses in their district, she said.

Everet Lake-Davis, a registered nurse at Schneider, said it would be strange to work in a hospital without LPNs and CNAs.

“We work together as a team,” she said. “I have never worked without an LPN next to me. It’s kind of disheartening that they’re getting rid of the LPNs and others.”

Lake-Davis said that after she got out of nursing school, it was really the LPNs that taught her how to do her job, because the other RNs were just too busy.

Luis Hospital is offering $500,000 for an educational bridge program to help the terminated LPNs and CNAs become registered nurses. Each nurse can get about $5,000 to complete the educational program, which takes between 18 and 24 months.

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