PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While more than 2,400 nurses and technical staff from Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital walked off the job and joined the picket line Monday, Peter Tsonos, of East Providence, was inside waiting to be discharged.
“They [the nurses] wanted to see me eat something, because they just took the NG tube out,” Tsonos, a patient at Rhode Island Hospital, recalled. “So the nurse said, ‘I just want to make sure you can eat alright and then you can get through the paperwork and we can get you discharged.'”
But, Tsonos said that nurse never came back to discharge him. Instead, he said he was informed the nurses had been escorted from the floor, and that temporary nurses were coming in to take their place.
“It was like a ghost town. It was so deserted,” Tsonos said.
Tsonos said he was wrapping up a week-long stay at Rhode Island Hospital after undergoing an emergency tracheostomy and was looking forward to returning home.
His cousin was with him at the time of the discharge, and was able to track down a secretary to help.
“She [the secretary] said, ‘I’ve never discharged anybody before, so here are your papers,'” Tsonos explained. “And I said, ‘Do I leave now?’ and she said, “I guess so.'”
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Tsonos then got up to leave. He and his cousin made it down the hallway before realizing he had two ports still attached to him.
In pictures Tsonos sent to Eyewitness News, he can be seen waiting near an empty nurses station. He said he was happy to finally be discharged, after waiting for someone to remove the two ports from him. But, Tsonos said he walked out of the hospital concerned for the other patients who were still there.
“The poor patients who were still in their rooms, how were they getting help?” Tsonos said.
President of Rhode Island Hospital Dr. Margaret Van Bree said she would much prefer to have the regular nurses and technicians inside taking care of their patients. But, she said the transition Monday went very well, and that the hospital has competent replacements.
The Department of Health echoed Dr. Van Bree’s statement, saying both Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital are functioning safely and appropriately.
As a former teacher, Tsonos said he understands the nurse’s plea. He said one of his nurses stopped by his room to say good bye to him over the weekend.
“She said, ‘There is so much more I want to do for you, but I can’t,'” Tsonos said. “She started crying, and I said, ‘Stop, relax. I’m okay.’ But it was terrible. I felt bad for them.”