Morton Hospital Nurses and Health Professionals Deliver Petition to Hospital CEO In Appeal for Safe Conditions
TAUNTON, MA -- In the wake of ongoing concerns about unsafe staffing/working conditions and the lack of progress in negotiations with management to address the situation, the registered nurses and health professionals of Morton Hospital have decided to appeal directly to the facility’s CEO and Board of Trustees for support in moving the process towards a fair and equitable settlement. Today, a delegation of nurses and professional staff will hand deliver a petition signed by 340 nurses, more than 85 percent of the professional staff at the hospital, to CEO Maureen Bryant, prior to her meeting with the Board of Trustees.
According to Joyce Wilkins, chair of the nurses’ bargaining unit, “The Morton Hospital administration continues to be totally unresponsive to the concerns of nurses about working conditions at the hospital and the impact these conditions are having on the quality and safety of patient care. We have circulated and will deliver this petition to Ms. Bryant to show the depth of support within the Morton professional community and to ask for immediate and real action to address this crisis.”
According to the nurses and health professionals, the hospital has failed to provide enough staff to give the care patients deserve; and instead, is forcing clinical staff to work extra hours and double shifts, regardless of the impact this may have on the quality and safety of patient care. Studies show that nurses working forced overtime are more likely to make medical errors and experts say the practice should be prohibited.
The nurses are seeking changes to their contract language that will require the hospital to provide full staffing to avoid the need for forced overtime, while also providing strict limits on the number of times it can be used. The nurses are also seeking a ban on any nurse being required to work more than 12 hours straight, which is recommended by the Institute of Medicine.
Morton management has also come to the negotiating table demanding the right to dismantle the nurses’ and health care professionals’ pension benefit, unilaterally changing it from a defined benefit to a defined contribution (401k-type) plan.
According to an analysis of the proposal by one of the nation’s leading pension consulting firms, for most of the professionals at Morton Hospital a change to a defined contribution pension plan would result in a 36 – 50 percent cut in the employees’ retirement benefit. The demand to take away the pension follows the hospital’s posting of a $5 million profit, and after awarding its outgoing CEO a $3 million bonus.
The 388 nurses and health professionals began negotiations for a new contract on October 15, 2009. To date, 16 sessions have been held, with the last two sessions held with a Federal mediator. The contract was set to expire on December 31, 2009 but has been extended by mutual agreement through March 8. The next negotiation is scheduled for March 16. The nurses will conduct informational picketing outside the entrance to the facility on Wednesday, March 17 from 2 – 4:30 p.m.