Patient care our 1st priority: Why the Baystate Franklin Nurses Have Set a Strike Date
As the Oct. 5 deadline date approaches for the nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, below is an Op Ed published last week in the Greenfield Recorder by the unit’s co-chairs that explains why nurses are taking this important step in their struggle for a fair contract . We need to support these nurses.
Greenfield Recorder, September 27, 2012
Patient care our 1st priority
Why the nurses have set a strike date
By LINDA JUDD and DONNA STERN
We have set Oct. 5 for a one-day strike at our community hospital. We have spent our entire nursing careers -- 45 years between the two of us -- working at Franklin Medical Center (FMC). We are deeply committed to our patients, our co-workers, and our community hospital.
After ten months and 26 largely fruitless sessions, the FMC nurses were left no choice but to set a strike date.
This is a highly unusual action. It is the first time nurses have considered taking this step here in Greenfield. This does not guarantee that there will be a strike. As members of the nurses’ elected bargaining team, we want nothing more than to settle a fair contract so we can focus our real work -- caring for our patients. We will continue to bargain in good faith with that goal in mind, but we are committed to going out on strike on Oct. 5 if Baystate continues to insist that we accept proposals that will be very harmful to our patients and to our hospital.
But let’s be clear: Baystate Health System’s corporate agenda has pushed us to the point where a hospital-wide strike by all 209 registered nurses looks increasingly likely.
Why would Baystate Health System put the future of our hospital and the health of our community at risk?
Baystate Health System is a regional health care superpower with enormous financial and economic resources. Baystate employs more than 10,000 people in more than dozen subsidiary corporations of which Franklin Medical Center is just one. These corporations are for-profit and nonprofit, domestic and foreign. (Yes, in Romney-esque fashion, one of Baystate’s corporate subsidiaries is “based” in the Cayman Islands!).
You may think of FMC as your community hospital, but tellingly, the title of our top manager is “president of Baystate regional markets.”
In recent years, we have seen decision after decision being made that serves the larger corporate interests of Baystate, but not our hospital and our community.
Space allows us to give just two examples.
Increasingly, Baystate staffs the hospital through forced overtime. When you are in the hospital, do you want to be cared for by a nurse who has worked up to 16 hours straight, in many cases being forced to care for more patients at one time than is safe?
Forcing nurses to work overtime beyond a nurse’s scheduled 12-hour shift was so common and harmful to patient outcomes that we worked to get a law passed this summer to make Baystate and other hospitals stop the dangerous practice of forcing nurses to work beyond their scheduled shifts.
But now the hospital wants to no longer pay overtime for nurses who work overtime beyond their normal 8- or 12-hour shifts! This is unacceptable.
Ask yourself a second question. When you are in the hospital do you want to be cared for by a nurse who themselves may be sick?
Under present Baystate policy, nurses are frequently disciplined -- and even risk being fired -- for taking the sick days that are available to them under their current contract! Discipline begins with the fourth sick-time “occurrence.”
A majority of FMC nurses we have spoken with about this report having come to work sick because of the fear of discipline. We have made a variety of proposals to rework this policy in a way that would allow sick nurses to use the time that is available to them if needed, yet Baystate insists that their corporation-wide policy (which they simply impose on other employees) will remain in effect.
We, as registered nurses, are highly skilled medical professionals who care deeply for our patients. One of our most important tasks is advocating for our patients.
Because we have a union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, we can speak up freely in the interest of our patients when we see an unsafe situation.
Baystate’s corporate agenda, its outrageous contract proposals and the repeated disrespect shown to direct-care nurses seriously compromises our ability to advocate for our patients.
Our fight is not about money, it is about the integrity of our profession, the interests of our community and the care of our patients.
What are we and other Franklin Medical Center nurses fighting for? First and foremost, we are fighting for our patients and our community. And for respect, a voice at work, the integrity of collective bargaining, safe working conditions and staffing practices that do not compromise our own well-being or the health of our patients.
Is that asking too much?
Linda Judd and Donna Stern are registered nurses at Franklin Medical Center. They are the elected co-chairs of the FMC nurses’ MNA bargaining committee.