Safety Issues Important for Both Patients and Nurses
Newton, Mass.—Registered nurses (RNs) at Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH) in Newton will conduct informational picketing outside the entrance to the facility today from 2 PM– 5 PM, to protest stalled contract talks with management, which nurses believe impacts their ability to deliver safe care to their patients.
More than 700 registered nurses are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. They have been negotiating their contact since September 2004 and have completed 15 negotiation sessions to date. The key issues in dispute include the need to provide full staffing at the facility in order to end the dangerous on-call practices; raising the salary level to match other Partners’ Health Care-owned facilities; and improvements in the health insurance benefits because the nurses now pay more for insurance than nurses at other Partners’ hospitals. The nurses contend these issues must be addressed to allow the hospital to recruit and retain nurses to ensure optimum patient care.
“The public has a right to know that there is a danger to patient safety in the hospital due to the present on-call practice,” said Nora Watts, RN, co-chair of the nurses’ bargaining unit at the facility.
This danger emanates from the hospital practice of calling a nurse into work for up to eight hours, and then requiring the nurse to work her next immediate shift so that a nurse is working for at least 16 hours straight.
According to Watts this practice creates unsafe conditions, “I could be scheduled for a day shift, be called in for the better part of an overnight shift and then expected to work my regular shift that day with no sleep. That creates an unsafe situation for both the patients and the nurse.”
To address the problem, the Newton-Wellesley nurses have a proposal that would prevent a nurse from being forced to work a scheduled shift after an on-call shift. “After working an on-call shift, in order to guarantee patient safety, that nurse should be sleeping not trying to care for patients,” said Watts.
Also very important for safety of patients, is the ability of Partners and NWH to recruit and retain high quality nurses. These actions can only be successful when the pay and benefits match other Partners’ facilities.
The nurses at NWH are outraged by the small increase being offered by the administrators from Partners and Newton-Wellesley.
“It is beyond me how the hospital can spend all that money on those advertisements that say Newton-Wellesley Hospital is as good or better than the big in town hospitals but they want to pay their staff so much less,” said Connie Hunter, the other co-chair of the nurses’ bargaining unit at the facility. The nurses at Newton-Wellesley currently are paid 18% less than the nurses at the Partners’ Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The nurses’ wage proposal would put them on par with the Boston hospitals.
The discrepancies between NWH and other area hospitals are even more glaring when comparing health insurance benefits. A full time 40-hour nurse at NWH with the Harvard Pilgrim Family plan will pay $84.59 a week. A Faulkner RN pays only $49.08 for the same plan. At Brigham & Women’s the nurses pay $22.53.
“This is a perfect example of how the hospital shows disrespect to each and every nurse, each and every day. We love our hospital and want to stay here taking care of our patients and neighbors, but with wages and benefits being offered by NWH many of our more experienced nurses will be forced to leave,” said Hunter.
The MNA nurses are holding their picket line today to seek community support. At a time when Partners’ Health Care is showing a $200 million dollar a year profit, the Newton and Wellesley communities should demand Partners’ and NWH put forward an equitable proposal to fairly resolve this situation and ensure the highest quality of patient care.“