SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — About 25 people, including doctors, nurses, patients, technicians, and others, crowded into a small conference room here at Springfield Hospital Tuesday evening to tell the hospital’s board of directors about the upsetting changes they are experiencing.
In the portion of the board meeting open to the public, board secretary Stephen Lyon invited 19 people in the crowd to make brief remarks. “We won’t respond to questions at this time,” he added. (The speakers were asked to identify themselves, although in some cases their names could not be heard clearly.) They told anecdotes of bills unpaid, nurses leaving, staffing issues and plans to quit their jobs because of a new emergency care vendor.
John Bond told the board “we received a bill for an elective procedure that was paid in full in advance.” He also said he had heard about instances of hospital vendors not being paid.
“We look to the board to fix these issues in a transparent manner,” Bond said.
The current provider of emergency department services, Emergency Services of New England, based in Chester, is being replaced with Bluewater Emergency Partners, based in Brunswick, Maine, according to Corky Bond, his wife. The change is scheduled to happen next April, and will involve a reduction of service hours, she said.
At least one man who works in the emergency department, who identified himself as Lee, claimed several employees are leaving because Bluewater is planning a “36-hour” staffing schedule, as opposed to the current “50-hour” schedule. Other speakers made similar comments.
“I don’t find that Bluewater’s proposal is something I can live with,” said paramedic Josh Rosenblum. “I am losing my job over that.”
“Something is seriously wrong,” said Ted, a retired physician who claimed that 55 people signed a letter of no confidence in the hospital administration. “There are serious financial problems.”
“We are hemorrhaging nurses,” said Linda, a nurse. Nurses are leaving for better work situations and more money, she explained. Also, new nurses are assigned up to six patients at once and “it is too much for them to handle.” She also suggested that a nurse sit on the board of directors.
A pediatric physician told a story of looking for fun stickers to give to a child patient, but finding they had run out because “we lost our credit with SmileMakers,” he said, referring to the company that makes the products. This doctor also said that on another occasion the room was cold and when he called the hospital engineering department to ask for heat, he found the oil bill wasn’t paid.
“If you hide the problem … you are not going to get help,” he told the board.
“The loss of the hospital or any part thereof is a very serious problem,” said Springfield select board member Peter MacGillivray.
Many speakers were unsure who to blame for their grievances. Some blamed the board, others the hospital administration. Nearly all, however, expressed their support for Springfield Hospital and called for greater transparency, urging the board to dig into the complaints and discover what the underlying problems actually were.
After the final speaker, Lyon thanked the crowd for their participation and interest in the hospital. “This is important to us,” he said promising to hold more such public sessions. “We appreciate your input.”