RNs Warn: Public Health Crisis in Threat to Close Affinity Hospital Pledge to Work with Elected Leaders, Community to Save Hospital

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Closure Would Escalate Opioid Crisis, Restrict Access to Vital Cardiac Care

The sudden announcement today by one of the nation’s biggest hospital chains that it plans to close Affinity Medical Center of Massillon, OH, in less than a month could cause a dangerous medical crisis for thousands of residents in the predominantly rural, low-income community served by the hospital said Affinity nurses today.

National Nurses United, whose affiliate, National Nurses Organizing Committee-Ohio represents some 250 RNs at Affinity, said today that it will work with elected leaders, community residents, and local organizations, including other labor groups, to rally opposition to oppose the closure.

Affinity RNs will hold a press conference Tuesday – time and location to be announced – to discuss the impact of the closure and discuss a campaign to save the hospital.

Nurses, like the rest of our community, are stunned by this sudden announcement to close Affinity Medical Center. I have been providing care to patients in this community for over 35 years and know that the care provided by nurses and other staff at AMC is very much needed. There is no way that I am going to accept this decision by QHC to abandon our community sitting down,” said RN Rose Anne Wilson, who works in Affinity’s Orthopedic Department.

“This is an unwarranted closure that will cause enormous suffering, especially in the midst of a severe opioid crisis that has had a huge impact on the community,” warned Jean Ross, RN, co-president of National Nurses United, the largest U.S. union and professional association of RNs.

A closure would also “have potential life threatening effects with the loss of a hospital that provides critical cardiac care services that will not be easily replaced in a rural community with limited public transportation options for low income, senior residents,” Ross said.

“ The life-saving care provided at Affinity must stay intact for our patients. The delays in necessary care that this closure would bring are unacceptable,” said Debra McKinney, an RN in Affinity’s Medical Telemetry Unit.

NNU sharply criticized the plan by Quorum Health Corporation, a spin-off operation of the notorious Community Health Systems, one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains, to close the hospital, especially with such short notice, and no apparent plan to protect community residents served by the hospital, or the hundreds of Affinity RNs and other caregivers who have long served the community.

“If Quorum and CHS are unwilling to keep Affinity open, it should commit to work with elected officials and the community to develop another operator to retain this vital community resource, or be held fully accountable for the disaster likely to follow,” said Ross.

“CHS in particular has a long, disgraceful history of ignoring the interests and well being of the patients who count on them for care and who have funded the wealth of this big corporation,” said Ross. “CHS is also one of the most lawless corporations in healthcare with a history of violating federal law and nurses’ democratic rights.”

In the past few years, Affinity Medical Center has been slapped with two federal court injunctions relating to labor law violations, and is currently being prosecuted by the NLRB.

In 2015, a jury awarded RN Ann Wayt a more than $2 million verdict against Affinity Medical Center for defamation, after Affinity retaliated against Wayt for speaking up for better patient care and working conditions.

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