Sparrow substance abuse unit move spurs nurses’ lawsuit

Dec 14, 2015

Sparrow Health System has moved its inpatient substance abuse unit from St. Lawrence Hospital to its main campus on Michigan Avenue. We speak with Jeff Breslin, president of the union representing Sparrow nurses, to find out why this change concerns them and why they filed an unfair labor practice charge against Sparrow.

In November, Sparrow Health System decided to move its inpatient substance abuse unit from St. Lawrence Hospital to its main campus on Michigan Avenue. They said the goal was to improve patient care. But officials from the union representing nurses at Sparrow see it differently. They say the quality of patient care is being compromised with this change. They also say Sparrow management forbade the nurses from speaking to the press or on social media about the change, and threatened disciplinary action or termination. As a result, The Michigan Nurses Association filed an unfair labor practice charge.

Current State guest host Sue Carter speaks with Jeff Breslin, a registered nurse and president of the nurse’s union the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital (PESCH).


What has the substance abuse unit historically provided for patients?
The substance abuse unit was an inpatient acute detox unit where patients would come in and stay for two or three days when they recognized that they had an addiction and were ready to start the process of beating that addiction. From the moment that they would walk through the doors, treatment would begin. There’s a huge piece to (detoxification) and to treating substance abuse patients. Part of that (is) the physical aspect. But probably equally as important—if not more important—is the mental health piece of that. By going to that substance abuse unit, the patients would start that mental health component from the moment they walked through the door.
Why were some nurses worried about the changes at Sparrow?
Talking with the nurses that actually work in that unit, they take care of these patients day in and day out. They are the experts at this. One of the big concerns is that from the moment that the patient walks through the door, they have said “I have a problem and I need help.” If they don’t have some other psychical ailment coming through, there is concern whether or not they will even meet admission criteria, whether they will make the decision to come in to be admitted, and whether or not they will be able to get effective treatment, which will help them along their road to recovery.