Berkshire County nurses fight for righteousness
Pittsfield, MA -- Dozens of Berkshire County nurses walked a picket line Monday night, to voice their concerns about patient care and a fair contract at Berkshire Medical Center.
The nurses have been in negotiations with the hospital since July 2010, still unable to reach an agreement. The hospital and the nurses don't even agree on what they're fighting about, for the hospital says it's about money, while the nurses say it's anything but.
Many of their complaints stem from the recent layoffs of 82 nurses, which they say has sacrificed quality care.
"It's less time spent with the patient, more time moving the patients," said Gerri Jacacky, register nurse, who thinks her time with patients is becoming more like an assembly line. She added that she must transfer or discharge a patient within an hour of seeing them.
"It's not like working in factory where you can replace one worker with another and you know move a few more pegs in another spot," said Margaret Rotti, registered nurse. "You can't do that, these are people. Each patient's an individual, they need individual care."
Besides staffing complaints, the nurses have two issues holding up a new contract.
The first is health benefits. They want the option to choose providers outside Berkshire Medical Center, without higher co-pay.
"Say if I have cancer and I go here and I want to get a second opinion," said Ann Marie Adams, registered nurse. "I don't want to have to pay more because now I'm in stress and I have to worry about whether my insurance is going to cover it."
Second, they're against a pay cut for nurses who work 36 hours and get paid for 40. Those nurses work three 12-hour shifts a week. The hospital now wants to pay 36 for 36, or have those nurses work another 4 hours.
On the picket line, they said a 4-hour day only adds unnecessary shift changes.
While staffing is still a complaint, the pay cuts and the health benefits are the two issues holding up the contract.