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Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 12:58pm

Augusta VA Nurses Plan Protest

Updated: 4 years ago.
A group of nurses at the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital plans to picket next week to bring attention to understaffing and 16-hour workdays. (photo courtesy Timothy Valentine)

A group of nurses at Augusta’s VA hospital is planning a protest next week. They say the hospital’s budget problems are forcing 16-hour shifts and could affect patient care.

The acting head of the VA nurses association says the hospital wants to do the right thing, but it’s handcuffed by a budget deficit she says is $8 million.

Irma Westmoreland with the National Nurses United VA Council says that’s why the hospital is extending the workdays of nurses beyond what’s federally allowed, slowing its rate of hiring, and cutting back on equipment budgets.

Westmoreland says tough working conditions are causing a high turnouver rate for nurses.

“We have great benefits here...that’s why nurses come. But when they get here and find that the staffing is so yuk...and the red tape, it’s hard to work through.”

The VA hospital’s director says staff turnover has not been substantially high. Rebecca Wiley acknowledges problems, and says the hospital and nurses are continuing talks to resolve issues like the 16-hour workday:

“There are so many details with that, but we did just talk about that this afternoon too. And we are going to get all of our data together and really drill down on that.”

Wiley says veterans should not be concerned about the level of care they receive at the Augusta hospital.