Labor and Health Care Issues
Attorney General Maura Healey to Speak with Registered Nurses at Massachusetts Nurses Association Annual Labor Leader Summit on March 24
What: 14th Annual MNA Labor Leader Summit
When: Thursday, March 24
Attorney General Maura Healey to speak at 11 a.m.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre to speak at 9 a.m.
Where: Doubletree Hotel, 11 Beaver Street, Milford, MA
CANTON, Mass. — The Commonwealth’s top law enforcement officer and lawyer will speak with registered nurses on Thursday as they gather for the 14th Annual Labor Leader Summit, hosted by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
Attorney General Maura Healey will address a group of nurse leaders from around the state as they discuss topics such as the 2014 Massachusetts Intensive Care Unit Safe Patient Limits law, the state’s ban on mandatory overtime for nurses and the illegal closure of essential health care services.
“We are pleased to welcome Maura Healey as a guest speaker at our annual summit,” MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams said. “Since her successful 2014 campaign, Healey has been ‘The People’s Lawyer,’ fighting for justice and equal rights for all citizens – values that nurses champion every day. Nurses look forward to asking Healey about a number of topics important to their profession, including the ICU law in place now to protect the state’s most vulnerable patients.”
The ICU Safe Patient Limits Law was signed by then-Gov. Deval Patrick on June 30, 2014. It was enacted by the legislature at the urging of registered nurses to ensure patients in Massachusetts hospital ICUs receive one-on-one care from their RN, while allowing a nurse to take a second patient if and when it is deemed safe to do so by the nurse. Nurses continue to advocate for the pending Patient Safety Act, which will require safe patient limits in all hospital units. Decades of research shows these kinds of limits improve patient outcomes.
Following Health Policy Commission regulations, nurses and hospitals are currently developing acuity tools to assist nurses in determining when ICU patients are stable enough to allow a two-patient assignment. Depending on the type of hospital and its ICU, the deadlines to complete acuity tools are March 31, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017. Though the tools are not finalized, the ICU law has been in effect since Sept. 28, 2014, as reinforced in written correspondence to hospitals by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in October 2014. Nurses are concerned because many hospitals in the state are wantonly violating the law, oftentimes assigning nurses up to three patients, placing those patients at risk for serious harm.
Mandatory overtime is also an important topic for RNs in Massachusetts. A law banning the dangerous practice of forcing nurses to take overtime hours went into effect on Nov. 5, 2012. Despite this law, which has few and only extraordinary exceptions, hospitals regularly compel nurses to work beyond their scheduled shifts, using generic excuses that are often simply copied and pasted into DPH reporting forms.
In the wake of the recent illegal and premature closings of North Adams Region Hospital and Quincy Medical Center, along with the loss of other essential services throughout the state, nurses are advocating for a bill (S. 1149) that will
Healey told WAMC Northeast Public Radio“To make sure that patients are protected, to make sure that the employees are protected, that the community is protected and that there is as much as notice and an opportunity to take needed steps as there should be,” she said.
A report issued by Healey’s office in December 2015 on Steward Health Care also took a strong stance on premature closings. “Steward failed to abide by the commitment it had made to maintain an acute care hospital in Quincy,” the report said. Steward closed all but a satellite emergency department at Quincy Medical Center in December 2014 despite a deal Steward made when it bought the hospital out of bankruptcy in 2011 to keep the hospital open until at least 2017.
Labor Leader Summit
The Annual Labor Leader Summit provides valuable education about union activity and advocacy for nurses and other health care professionals who represent the MNA’s 23,000 members at health care facilities throughout Massachusetts. These professionals, who take leadership roles at their facilities, will participate in panels about contract bargaining and labor history, and will hear updates from various MNA membership units.
This year’s summit also features a keynote address by Tefere Gebre, who was the first immigrant elected to national AFL-CIO office. Born in Gondar, Ethiopia, Gebre was a political refugee who emigrated to the United States as a teenager. Since starting his first union job as a night shift loader at UPS while in college, Gebre has devoted his entire life to the values of hard work and a voice at the workplace, according to his AFL-CIO biography. He served in various labor leadership roles at all levels in California prior to his election in 2013 as AFL-CIO executive vice president.
Healey was elected Attorney General in November 2014 and was sworn in on Jan. 21, 2015. For seven years prior to her election, Maura helped lead the Attorney General’s Office, ultimately overseeing more than half of the office’s 500 employees. She began as Chief of the Civil Rights Division and went on to direct two of the office’s most prominent divisions: the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau and the Business & Labor Bureau.