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Nurses Hold Public Inquiry into Patient Safety

A panel of community leaders heard testimony on the health care situation in North Texas at a municipal building here on August 15. The activity was prompted by the firing of three registered nurses who stood up for patient safety in spite of the Mesquite hospital's insistence that profits come first. Hospital administrators sent Sandra Taylor, Diana Sepeda, and Nancy Friesen home, and fired them later, because they insisted on serving only the number of patients they could safely care for. Supporters unanimously believe that the real reason was that the three nurses are outspoken supporters of an organizing drive by the National Nurse's Organizing Committee (NNOC).

Sandra Taylor told the panel about her extensive experience in other hospitals and in other areas. She concluded that, in her opinion, "Texas is worse" on patient safety. She also stipulated that the only reason that hospital administrators say that a nursing shortage exists is because "Qualified nurses are leaving the bedside because they are discouraged by their work situations."

Diana Sepeda said that hospital administrators in North Texas not only fired the three nurses, but illegally black-listed them as well. Nancy Friesen compared her experiences in Canada with the United States and concluded that patients were far safer in her home country. Even though Canada may have less advanced medical equipment, they have much better staffing ratios, she said.

Nurses rose from the audience to report their own impressions and findings. One of them, Patricia Shiller, said, "A baby born in Ecuador has a better chance of surviving than one in the U.S.." One nursing supervisor and one Human Relations executive from hospitals rose to defend the system, but angry working nurses refuted their claims. The hearing came on the same day that newspapers carried he story that the United States, which spends much more money on health care than any other nation, had fallen to 42nd in life expectancy!

The panel members were: Texas State Representative Roberto Alonzo, community activist Harriet Irby, Reverend C.E. Clark, Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Secretary Gene Lantz, and retired biochemistry professor Morton Traeger. After hearing the discussion and asking questions, they brought four conclusions forward:

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