News & Events

St. Vincent Hospital Nurses to Deliver Petition to CEO on Dec. 19th (3:30 p.m.) In Appeal for Safe Staffing and a Fair Contract

Recent Talks Held Last Week Yielded Little Movement on Key Issues
As Contract is Set to Expire on Jan. 11th

WORCESTER—After more than a year of negotiations, including yet another fruitless session held on Thursday, Dec. 13, the registered nurses of St. Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center have decided to appeal directly to the facility’s CEO for support in moving the process towards a fair and equitable settlement. On Tuesday, a delegation of nurses will hand deliver a petition signed by 560 nurses, 80 percent of the nurses at the hospital, to CEO John Smithhisler. The delegation will gather outside the entrance to the hospital on the corner of Foster St. and Worcester Center Blvd. at 3:30 p.m. to meet with members of the media who wish to learn more about the issues behind the dispute.

The nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have been attempting to negotiate their first contract with Vanguard Health Systems, Inc., the newest for-profit owner of the hospital. The nurses, who conducted an historic 49-day strike in 2000 against Tenet Healthcare over the issues of staffing and mandatory overtime, are once again locked in a protracted dispute with the new owners over similar concerns.

According to Carolyn Moore, chair of the nurses’ bargaining unit, “The Vanguard administration continues to be totally unresponsive to nurses’ serious concerns about staffing conditions at the hospital and the impact these conditions are having on the quality and safety of patient care. We have circulated and will deliver this petition to Mr. Smithhisler to show the depth of support within the nursing community for immediate and real action to address this crisis. He needs to understand that nurses are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to protect their patients and their profession. ”

Specific issues in dispute include: the nurses’ desire to set safer staffing levels in the hospital; to establish a prohibition on routinely assigning nurses additional non-nursing tasks that detract from their ability to provide safe patient care; protection of health insurance benefits; pay parity with nurses at UMass Memorial; and the nurses’ strong opposition to a number of management proposals to strip nurses’ contract rights.

Maintaining appropriate staffing levels is a constant struggle at the facility, which is causing nurses on a number of units to take on excessive patient assignments. The nurses point to concrete evidence of a rapid deterioration in staffing conditions that jeopardize the safety of patients. In the last year, nurses have filed more than 400 (an average of one per day) official reports of incidents when staffing levels jeopardized the safety of their patients.

Contact: Carolyn Moore, RN at 508.826.3905; Marie Ritacco, RN at 508.265.1905; David Schildmeier at 781.249.0430, Wendy McGill at (978) 973-4146 or Sandy Ellis, RN at 781-363-0020.