Debi Albert, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, said the temporary nurses, who came in from across the country, would come in only for a five-day contract.
“The competition for those relief nurses was quite high,” Ms. Albert said. The staffing agency used to hire the temporary nurses, she said, indicated to the hospital that “if we wanted to safely staff the hospital for one day, we had to commit to those nurses for five days, or they would not travel.”
In addition to hiring the temporary nurses, the University of Chicago Medical Center moved several patients out of the neonatal intensive care unit, the pediatric intensive care unit and the intensive care unit. The hospital’s emergency room is currently on diversion, meaning ambulances must find somewhere else to go, even if it is the closest one.
“It’s heartbreaking” that they’re moving patients, Ms. Hardin said. “You work in a place and you think that there’s values and that what you do matters, and they do things like take your patients away.”
The nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center face unsafe working conditions daily, according to Ms. Hardin. She said that units often borrow supplies, equipment and even staff from one another just to make ends meet.
“It’s kind of a robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul situation,” Ms. Hardin said.
The University of Chicago Medical Center, through a spokeswoman, rejected the notion that the hospital was inadequately staffed.
“As in any hospital, we often see unpredictable and sudden increases in demand for care within our inpatient units,” she said. But she noted that the hospital has a group of nurses who can shift between units depending on need.