McLaren Lapeer Nurses in Michigan Authorize Strike Over Unsafe Staffing Ratios

5 Min Read Published June 16, 2023
McLaren Lapeer Nurses in Michigan Authorize Strike Over Unsafe Staffing Ratios

“Working conditions have been very unsafe for some time now,” one nurse told us. 

After holding a strike authorization vote at the end of May, nurses at McLaren Lapeer Region Hospital in Lapeer, MI voted unanimously to strike if an agreement cannot be met with hospital leaders, The Detroit News reported. The approximately 250 nurses who work at the hospital are reportedly striking due to concerns over what they call unsafe patient-to-nurse ratios. Michigan does not have any laws in place to limit the number of patients a nurse can be assigned. 

“As workers, we are currently the only people able to hold healthcare executives accountable. McLaren’s administration has failed to make sure that we have enough nurses on every shift,” said Nicole Wiegele, RN, in a Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) press release. 

A previous hospital contract spelled out specific patient-to-nurse ratios, the MNA said, but that contract expired on May 9, 2023. Contract negotiations for a new contract began in March, but so far, no agreement has been reached. 

Chuck Johnson, RN, added in the release that because McLaren Lapeer is the only Level 2 Trauma hospital in the thumb area of Michigan, the nurses are “concerned” about the future of patient care. “McLaren’s CEO has continued to make millions while too many of my colleagues have left because our working conditions are unsustainable. Something must change,” he added. 

According to McLaren Lapeer Region Hospital’s website, the facility is a 222-bed acute care hospital and is the “primary provider.” Their site also explains that the hospital maintains a verified Level II trauma designation, a 29-bed Emergency Center, and “specialized services” for heart, cancer, orthopedic, and general surgery services, physical medicine and rehabilitation, women’s services, a birthing unit, wound care services, and sleep disorders.

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Authorizing the Strike

McLaren Lapeer nurses in the MNA held an informational rally and picket before moving forward with the strike authorization vote. Over 100 people turned out to the rally, where the nurses shared some of their concerns about patient care, safety, and compensation.  

Image: Michigan Nurses Association Facebook

“As nurses, we are exhausted by the conduct of McLaren executives. What we have experienced is nothing short of a moral injury,” said Carie Babcock, RN, and president of the Michigan Nurses Association local at McLaren Lapeer Region Hospital in the press release by MNA. 

“However, we are also hopeful,” Babcock added. “We believe that our unity and our solidarity is strong enough to be able to take on this corporation and change their behavior. We believe that it’s possible to win a better future for all of us.”

Alicia Kelley, 37, RN, BSN, tells that after the working conditions at McLaren Lapeer during the COVID-19 and after, many nurses at the hospital were “ready” for a strike vote before negotiations even began. 

“Working conditions have been very unsafe for some time now,” says Kelley.

Working Conditions at Lapeer

Kelley, who currently works at McLaren Lapeer, notes that in the hospital’s ICU, the patient-to-nurse ratio is supposed to be  2:1, but there have been times that it’s been as high as 4:1, which she says is “extremely unsafe.”

In the Progressive Care Unit, she claims similar patient-to-nurse ratios are happening—while the ratio is supposed to be 4:1, she says there have been times when the patient-nurse ratio has been as high as 9:1. 

“It’s impossible to properly care for that many patients at once,” Kelley adds. “Every unit has been run very short and there is currently no verbiage in our contract to hold Mclaren accountable.”

Kelley also claims that unsafe ratios do not halt more patients from being admitted to the floor.

“It is clear that bed flow and filling beds matters more than patient safety,” she continues. “When all inpatient beds are full, the administration continues to accept patient transfers from outside facilities. Why? To sit in the ER as a hold? Money, that’s why. Our patients deserve better.” 

The Current Situation

According to Kelley, the McLaren Lapeer union team has been negotiating with hospital administration without success. 

“McLaren seems to think if they throw some money our way, that we will forget about safe staffing proposals,” she says. “We will not be bought out. Our patients deserve better.” 

The Detroit News reported that McLaren Lapeer Region President and CEO Tim Vargas provided a statement in which he called the union activity “antics” that would not be allowed to “detract from our goal.”

“The hospital has signaled its willingness to enhance wages, staffing, and practice processes without any job actions, and is not asking for concessions from the union," Vargas said in his statement. "As we have experienced significant reductions in our reimbursement, losses in revenue due to census drops, and challenges in the labor force, we must ensure that we reach a contract that is fair and sustainable."

Kelley tells that Vargas sent an email with “threatening and coercive statements” to the nurses that included threats to lock nurses out if they took part in the strike, withhold their health insurance benefits, and even not allow them back once the strike ended. 

As a result of the threats, Kelley says the union has also filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against McLaren Lapeer. “This is the McLaren way— to use scare tactics as a means of breaking the nurses down,” she notes. 

Kelley reports that the union is keeping nurses up-to-date on the ongoing negotiations and that while the union nurses are united and believe a strike is “absolutely” warranted if it comes to that, the ultimate goal of the McLaren Lapeer nurses is to protect their patients. 

“The goal is not to strike,” she says. “The goal is to hold Mclaren accountable for continuously breaking our contract and putting profits over our patient.”

“We didn’t go into this profession to provide subpar care to our patients,” she adds. “McLaren has shown time and time again that they put profits over their patients. It needs to stop. We are fighting for our patients.”

Currently, McLaren Lapeer’s Facebook page and website have no mention of the strike or ongoing negotiations. has reached out to Mclaren Lapeer and will update this story as it develops. reached out to McLaren Lapee for a response and has not received a comment at time of publication. 

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