News & Events

“It’s Like Pouring Salt on the Wound”

Romney Wants Nurses and Other Health Care Professionals to Pay 150% More For Health Care Insurance

CANTON, MA — In his 2007 Budget proposal Governor Mitt Romney has decided that state employees should pay 150% more for their health care insurance. This raise is especially onerous to the 1800 RNs and other health care professionals, who make up the state’s Unit 7, and who have been without a contract for 945 days. Even without this incredible request the present contract situation is already preventing the recruitment and retention of the professional staff needed to adequately care for the state’s most vulnerable residents, including the severely mentally ill, mentally retarded and disabled veterans.

“It is beyond comprehension that the Governor would make such a request. Because of our lack of a contract, and our low pay it is very difficult to find experienced professionals to work with us and now it will be even harder. For 942 days we have been without a contract and now this. It is like pouring salt on the wound”, said Bill Fyfe, RN and president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s chapter of state-employed health care professionals, which includes more than 1,800 members.

State-employed health professionals include registered nurses, physicians, pharmacists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dentists, speech and hearing therapists and podiatrists. They work in soldiers’ homes for disabled veterans; state hospitals for the mentally ill; and residential facilities for mentally retarded adults. They also work at centers for HIV and drug-affected mothers and children; group homes for those cannot live independently; and high-security wards for violent adolescents or suicidal/homicidal residents, mentally ill prisoners, and clients sent for pre-trial evaluations.

“We are the safety net for the state’s most troubled and helpless citizens, we’re the last stop, and without our care and services, many of these people would end up homeless and many would die,” said Fyfe. “The Governor’s treatment of the state’s caregivers represents the shredding of the state’s safety net.”

Negotiations between the Romney administration and the health professionals began on July 23, 2004. The administration came to the table with more than 100 proposals to cut benefits and no pay increase. The administration has also sought to strip the nurses and professionals of all their rights to have input on staffing conditions at the facilities. According to recent surveys, staffing levels are dangerously low—which severely compromises the quality and safety of care in the state’s facilities.