Cayuga Medical Center

Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

February 28, 2017

Hearings Resume for Nurses Accused of Disregarding Blood Transfusion Protocol

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A series of hearings to evaluate unfair labor practice charges against Cayuga Medical Center  have resumed this past Monday. This National Labor Relation Board court hearing will consider allegations of whether the Cayuga Medical Center unlawfully terminated two of its nurses on grounds of union activity.

The court will hear charges filed by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represented the terminated nurses: Anne Marshall and another nurse who chose to remain anonymous.

Charges against Cayuga Medical Center were already upheld last October, The Sun previously reported. On Oct. 28, 2016, Federal Administrative Law Judge David I. Goldman ruled that the Cayuga Medical Center violated several labor laws by deterring its nurses from forming a union. Cayuga Medical Center has since appealed that decision.

While the two nurses have claimed they were fired because of their union activities, Cayuga Medical Center maintains that they were fired for violation of blood transfusion protocol.

John W. Turner, vice president for public relations of Cayuga Medical Center, said in a statement to The Sun “that the two ICU nurses, who administered the blood transfusion, willfully and recklessly disregarded the well-established safety procedures and then falsely documented in the patient record that the procedures were followed.”

“We are fortunate that the patient in this case did not suffer any physical harm, but this incident serves as a lesson and a reminder to all of us that there can be no shortcuts when it comes to patient safety at Cayuga Medical Center.” Turner added.

Cayuga Medical Center also disclosed the patient’s complaint with her permission and has now shared it with The Sun.

In the complaint, the patient wrote that the nurses typically followed a strict protocol where they made sure the patient’s wristband and paperwork matched one another. Nurses then read the numbers on the blood bag and compared them to the numbers on the paperwork. Once the numbers match, the transfusion then begins.

The patient explained that she had been walked through the process of blood transfusions with nurses multiple times, as she had to receive transfusions regularly.

However, during one particular transfusion, the complaint read, “The nurse comes in, hangs the bag and starts the blood. I looked at her and said ‘What about the protocol?’”  

While “the numbers checked” between the blood and the paperwork, she reported the violation to the head nurse at that time.

“I need the hospital to be aware of this breech of protocol and seriousness I felt being vulnerable in my bed,” the patient said in the statement.

The current hearings are a continuation of hearings that were postponed from last January.

Laurie Konwinski, chair of the Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes, attended Tuesday’s hearing during which a nurse from Cayuga Medical Center was being cross-examined by the Cayuga Medical Center’s legal counsel.

“One of the main points of the questioning was about the policy that says two nurses are supposed to do a review of the blood and go over a checklist by the patient’s bedside,” Konwinski said.

Konwinski said that in the hearing, the nurses argued that the protocol is not as stringent as the hospital may assert.

“Given the standard operating procedure of how busy each nurse is with the patients under their care, the nurse was testifying that the check at the bedside is not always done within the confines of each patient”s small cubicle, but within eyesight of the nurses who can see their patients through the windows of each cubicle,” Konwinski said.

Konwinski explained that the argument CMC will present is likely to focus on the blood transfusion discrepancy, while the nurses are likely to focus on the regular enforcement of this policy.

According to the Tompkins Workers’ Center, the subsequent hearings will take place on March 1 and 3 at the Tompkins County Courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on March 6 and March 7 at the Administration/Crash Fire Rescue building at the Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on March 8, 9, and 10 at the ILR Conference Center in King-Shaw Hall, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.