Nurses taking legal action over short-staffing issues

Firm News | June 17, 2019

Typically, cases of nursing neglect comes to light from the neglected patients or their survivors … which is why the proactive stance that some registered nurses in Chicago have taken deserves a mention. These dedicated professionals are concerned that short-staffing at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) are a major risk to the patients.

As such, many have filed formal complaints against the facility with both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Their complaints allege that USMC failed to comply with state and federal laws which jeopardized the safety of the patients in the facility.

Egregious breaches of patient care

A registered nurse in the burn unit commented that she observed delays in care that put high risk patients in harm’s way. Nurses working on the chemotherapy unit reported delays of as long as four hours for chemo treatments.

The problem appears to affect all units, as a registered nurse on the cardiology floor was forced to cut short a planned vacation when short staffing led to only two nurses on the unit instead of the needed four.

State law violated

Chicago nurses accuse UCMC of breaching the Nurse Staffing by Patient Acuity Act of 2008. The Act requires Illinois hospitals “to implement and post . . . written staffing plan(s) in each unit” that correlate the nurse staff numbers with patient care needs. They allege that the medical center only staffs its nurses according to the plan just over half of the time.

Low staff numbers heighten risk to patients

What happens to patients when there are too few nurses on a shift? Research indicated that when nurses are spread too thin patients are at greater risk of:

  • Preventable medical errors
  • Medical complications
  • Longer hospital stays
  • Falls
  • Injuries
  • Re-admissions

Were you harmed by short-staffing at USMC?

If you or a loved one were a patient at USMC who suffered harm or a worsened condition caused by short-staffing, you may have a cause of action to pursue a civil personal injury case against the facility and/or the medical providers who placed you in harm’s way.

But these cases have very definite time restrictions to follow, so don’t delay seeking legal advice from a Chicago medical malpractice attorney.