Massillon nurses collecting donated snacks for patients after new rules go into effect

MASSILLON, Ohio - Nurses who work for Affinity Medical Center in Akron gathered outside of the hospital on Monday collecting snack foods, intending to supplement what they say the hospital is no longer providing for patients.

"A couple of weeks ago they were notified by management that the hospital would discontinue stocking snacks on the unit, so they objected to that and management did not listen or replace the snacks. So they [the nurses] are calling on the community today to draw attention to the issue that the hospital has done this all in the name of cost-cutting," said Michelle Mahon, an organizer of the demonstration.

In addition to the collection, the nurses were distributing leaflets that they say show that the hospital and its parent company, Quorum Health Corporation, are financially sound and profitable.

Nurses say that the hospital has notified them it will no longer be stocking patient supplies with grape juice, whole milk, chocolate milk, Coke or Diet Coke, ginger ale or diet ginger ale, peanut butter crackers, creamers and all condiments.

The nursing staff says administration has advised that patients now need to order them with their meals. Previosly, the nursing staff had immediate access to the items on their units.

"Some of our patients are unable to swallow, maybe because of a stroke or they are elderly, and they cannot swallow so sometimes we have to crush the meds and put them in applesauce to help them swallow their pill, so applesauce is important," said Stephanie Still.

Other nurses say some of their patients come to their rooms following surgery and once they are settled in the staff is able to provide them something to eat after the cafeteria closes at 6:30 p.m.

"We have our diabetic patients at night that get insulin and you don't want to run the chance of their blood sugar bottoming out during the night we always offer something at night just to keep them stable through the evening," said Amber Black.

Nurses say if they want to provide a patient with something to eat after hours, they now have to contact a coordinator to go to the cafeteria where the snack items are behind lock and key.

On Monday they were able to collect some applesauce, some crackers and other snack items.

"I brought fruit snacks, little potato chips and crackers," said Donna Johnson.

The intention was to take the donations in and present them to administrators, but the nurses who took them inside say the donations were refused, although administrators told them they were working on an immediate fix to the concern including implementing what the hospital described as a "food ambassador program."

A Fox 8 call to Affinity Medical Center on Monday was not returned.

On its Facebook Page the hospital stated that it has had a "food ambassador program"

"As part of an effort to provide more personalized care, Affinity Medical Center implemented a Patient Ambassador Program last year.
This program provides each patient with a personal ambassador. The ambassador takes patient food orders throughout the day and provides patient education regarding dietary limitations. Patients can choose from a wide range of menu options that follow their physicians’ orders. And appropriate food and snacks are available 24/7.
During overnight hours (7 pm to 7 am) patient orders can be placed through the nursing staff (still adhering to physician recommendations).
Affinity Medical Center is committed to providing patients with customer service and caring for their health." The Hospital Posted.

On a Massillon Virtual Sounding Board Facebook page a hospital representative said of the nurses complaint:

"This post, originating from New York, contains falsehoods about dietary care at Affinity Medical Center. I’m the interim CEO of the hospital. Snack items are, and have always been, available to patients 24/7. Physicians, nurses and dietitians plan nourishing snack options for patients. If you did donate food, that was generous, but it could not be accepted due to patient safety. We did encourage the organizers of this event to donate the food where it was actually needed at local food banks."

The nurses involved in Monday's demonstration say, at the very least, they hope their efforts will show the community and the hospital administration that their desire to deliver quality care is no less important than helping the hospital stay in business.

"Hopefully by seeing how much the nurses care and the community cares they will change their mind and put some snacks back up on the floor," said Michelle Offenberger.