News & Events

St. Vincent Hospital Nurses Schedule Strike Authorization Vote for Jan. 24th

WORCESTER – After more than a year of negotiations, including yet another session held yesterday, the registered nurses of St. Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center have called for a strike authorization vote on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007. Talks continue to stall over hospital management’s refusal to agree to improvements in staffing levels to provide safe patient care, specifically in the emergency department and on the medical surgical floors, where poor staffing levels have led to a number of unsafe situations and a decrease in the quality of patient care.

The nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), 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. The decision to schedule the strike authorization vote was made by the committee following negotiations on Wednesday and the decision was overwhelmingly endorsed at a membership meeting held last night.

According to Carolyn Moore, chair of the nurses’ bargaining unit, “The Vanguard administration continues to be 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. While they have made movement on economic issues, they have yet to agree to take the issue of staffing seriously. They should know from the history of this bargaining unit that St. Vincent nurses will do whatever is necessary to protect our patients and our ability to provide the care our patients deserve.”

The strike authorization vote has been scheduled to take place throughout the day and into the evening on Wednesday, Jan. 24th. Nurses will cast their vote by secret ballot at the MNA Region 2 Headquarter, which is located at 365 Shrewsbury St. in Worcester. Voting will take place from 6 am to 8 pm. The vote does not mean the nurses would strike it immediately. It gives the negotiating committee the authorization to call a strike if and when they feel it is necessary. Once the committee issues its official notice to strike, the hospital would then have 10 days before the nurses walked off the job.

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.

The St. Vincent Hospital nurses and management have been negotiating their contract since November 2005. To date, 33 sessions have been held, with the last three sessions involving a federal mediator. The contract expired on December 31, 2005 and has been extended until Feb. 1, 2007. The two parties are scheduled to meet again tomorrow, Jan. 18.