Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coffee Health Group Lays Off 50 Employees

We constantly hear of the shortage of nurses and other health care workers, but just how acute is the shortage here in Northwest Alabama, the Shoals in particular? Seemingly not that dire at ECM Hospital and its affiliates where several Registered Nurses received their walking papers yesterday. The nurses were a part of 50 who comprised what has been termed the first round of layoffs for the local health authority.

This is particularly disturbing considering the current nurse-patient ratio at both Eliza Coffee Memorial and Shoals Hospitals. For years, both hospitals have complained of the shortage of available nurses, particularly Registered Nurses; however, the shortage more accurately has referred to nurses who were willing to work the floor (the most strenuous of nursing occupations) at the wages Coffee Health Group was offering. It has been only two years ago that ECM phased out all LPNs (trade nurses) in favor of RNs (professional nurses); now even Registered Nurse positions are being cut in the attempt to turn back the sea of debt the health authority is facing.

The Coffee Health Group spends small fortunes in advertisements that exhort us of the Shoals to use their facilities rather than travel to Huntsville or Birmingham. Each ad assures the reader that the quality of care is equal, if not superior, to that found elsewhere in the state. Quality health care cannot be accomplished without nurses, or even those maintenance technicians who keep the plant running smoothly. Interim CEO Jody Pigg owes the Shoals an accurate appraisal of just what yesterday's and future layoffs will mean to its health care consumers.

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