Regional Council 1 News
Berkshire Medical Center Nurses Deliver Petition to CEO David Phelps Calling for a Fair Contract that Protects Patients and Treats Nurses Fairly
PITTSFIELD, Mass – The registered nurses of Berkshire Medical Center delivered a petition signed by 70 percent of BMC RNs to Berkshire Health CEO David Phelps on Friday, May 5. The petition calls on Phelps and the BHS Board of Trustees to reach a fair agreement that values nurses and allows them to provide the high-quality care their patients deserve.
- BMC RNs will be at Park Square in Pittsfield on Saturday, May 6 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. celebrating National Nurses Day and rallying for safe staffing and a fair contract.
Nurses also delivered more than 400 unsafe staffing forms on Friday. These reports are provided to managers by RNs at times when there are not enough nurses or other staff available to provide safe and effective patient care.
“Our proposal to ensure safe patient care comes directly from the nurses at Berkshire Medical Center,” said Alex Neary, a longtime BMC nurse and chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee. “We have proposed that the hospital should follow its own staffing guidelines from 2015, but with increased numbers of LPNs. Nurses are being pushed beyond our ability to provide safe care. The hospital refuses to commit to following their own staffing guidelines.”
“We have spoken to hospital supervisors about these problems during our monthly labor-management meetings, handed our unsafe staffing forms to managers in real-time and across the bargaining table. Yet BMC refuses to agree to the evidence-based solution put forward by its own nurses. Instead, the hospital has attacked us, maligning our reputations and lying about the basic facts of bargaining. The truth is that we have worked hard for months to reach a fair agreement that protects our patients and properly values nurses.”
Key outstanding issues in bargaining include safe patient limits for nurses targeted to BMC patient needs, security improvements and making sure BMC does not erode nurses’ health insurance benefits and working conditions.
Recently, BMC nurses enrolled in family health insurance plans learned that they already pay 40 percent to 70 percent more than managers and doctors. In addition to that disparity, the hospital wants BMC nurses to double what they pay for health insurance premiums, from 10 percent to 20 percent.
“To ask nurses to double their contribution to health insurance premiums when many of us already pay much more than managers and doctors is unfair and disrespectful,” Neary said. “Hospital management has made it clear that they do not value or respect their nurses even though without us BMC would be inoperable.”
The petition says:
“As registered nurses, we are 100% dedicated to highly skilled and compassionate care. Together with the rest of our team, we strive to deliver the high quality care that management markets to our surrounding community. We are proud of the high quality of care that we are able deliver to our patients on a daily basis.
“Too often, we don’t have the nurses and other team members available to deliver the quality of care that our patients deserve. When nurses are pushed beyond our ability to work safely and to care for ourselves, patient care suffers. Corners get cut, communication gets lost, and things can get missed. There isn’t enough time for the personal touches and nuances that are integral to the nursing profession. There isn’t enough time for patient and family education. Too often, we aren’t able to answer call lights in a timely manner, and care delays throughout the hospital are excessive. Nurses are burned out. BMC must do better!
“We call upon David Phelps, CEO and the BHS Board of Trustees to settle a fair contract.”
Background on Bargaining
The BMC nurses' previous contract with the hospital expired on Sept. 30, 2016, but was extended. Negotiations between the MNA and BMC began in October 2016. A federal mediator joined the process in April 2017. The next bargaining date is schedule for Wednesday, May 10.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is 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.