2011 News

St. Vincent Hospital RNs Reach Tentative Agreement Averting a Strike

05.04.2011

Pact Provides Nurses with Industry-Leading Improvements in RN Staffing Levels
No Nurse Will Be Assigned More than 4-5 Patients on Days, No More than 5 on Nights
As Well as Improvements in Staffing for the Care of Maternity and Critical Care Patients

WORCESTER, MA -- After a 6 -hour negotiating session, the registered nurses of the St. Vincent Hospital have reached a tentative agreement with management tonight, averting a strike that was set to begin on Friday May 6. The three-year pact includes industry-leading, contractually enforceable RN-to-patient ratios that will transform the hospital from being one of the worst staffed hospitals in the state to one of the best.

“We are proud of this agreement as it is the result of our membership’s willingness to take a stand for their patients and their profession,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “The nurses spoke and the hospital was forced to finally listen to us. As a result, our nurses will have a guarantee of a patient assignment that will allow them to provide the quality nursing care our patients deserve.”

The three-year agreement runs from Jan.1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012. The pact includes the following key provisions:

  • Improvements to contractually guaranteed RN-to-patient ratios on all the hospital’s medical-surgical and telemetry floors -- Where the nurses’ contract previously allowed patient assignments of up to six on days and evenings and up to seven patients on nights, the new contract sets a safe limit of four to five patients per nurse on days and evenings and no more than five patients on the night shift. The nurses also achieved improved RN-to-patient ratios in the hospital’s maternity unit which are in keeping with established national standards for maternity care.
  • The addition of a “resource nurse” with a limited two-patient assignment to all medical-surgical and telemetry floors on day and evening shifts – These nurses will supplement core staffing on these units, to coordinate the flow of patients in and out of the units, while also providing support to nurses caring for patients with complex needs.
  • A guarantee that all critical care patients will receive the accepted standard of care no matter where they are in the hospital -- As the hospital is planning to close eight to nine intensive care unit beds, which may result in critically ill patients waiting for an ICU bed, the parties agreed to contract language that assures those patients will receive the same level of nursing care no matter where they are in the hospital.
  • A modest wage increase – the pact includes a 1 percent across the board increase effective Jan. 1, 2011, and an additional 1 percent across the board increase Jan. 1, 2012, along with a new 2 percent step at top of the salary scale effective upon ratification.

In reaching the agreement, the union officially withdrew its strike notice and will be scheduling a vote to ratify the agreement next week.

The nurses began negotiating a new contract with Vanguard management in December of 2009 and a total of 42 negotiating sessions have been held to date. The current contract expired on Dec. 31, 2009 and had been extended by mutual agreement until today, which is the last scheduled session before the strike. The decision to issue a strike notice was authorized by an overwhelming vote of the St. Vincent membership held on April 8, and the nurses issued their notice to strike on April 25.

While the St. Vincent nurses have reached an agreement to avert a strike, the 1,100 nurses of Tufts Medical Center in Boston have a strike notice pending for May 6 over the same issue – the need for safer RN staffing to ensure safe patient care.

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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses union in the United States with more than 150,000 members from coast to coast.

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