BEVERLY, MA – Registered nurses at Northeast Health Corp. (NHC) have recently cast a vote of “no confidence” in its chief executive, Stephen R. Laverty. A sizeable number of nurses who work at NHC-owned Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, and who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), have signed a petition to that effect and have endorsed a statement holding his administration responsible for “a punitive organizational culture that continues to be characterized by oppressive management practices,” which is “harmful to staff.”
The nurses’ action follows an earlier “no-confidence” vote taken by the physicians at Beverly Hospital in May, the recent arrest of a former member of Laverty’s senior management team [for theft of hospital property], and a “significant finding letter” issued to Beverly Hospital in 2005 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, asserting that employees at Beverly Hospital were being exposed to workplace violence throughout the Hospital and noting inadequacies in the Hospital’s policy concerning workplace violence. It also comes amidst recurring allegations from such groups as Partners of Addison Gilbert Hospital that Laverty and his management team have favored Beverly Hospital at the expense of Addison Gilbert Hospital.
The MNA believes the vote reflects a growing crisis in the relationship between senior management and the frontline nurses at NHC. “It seems clear from this vote, and the previous vote of the physicians, that members of the health care team have lost confidence in the leadership and direction of this organization, and I think that has to be addressed,” said Marie Freeman, a nurse at Beverly Hospital and grievance vice-chair of the nurses’ union. “Nurses and physicians at Northeast Health Corp., who are professionally and ethically responsible for protecting our patients, must do what we can to insure that our administrators create conditions that enable us to provide the quality patient care our patients expect and deserve.”
The MNA has received reports from nurses:
- Asserting that after doubling its emergency department capacity at Beverly Hospital, NHC has not added sufficient staff to account for the increase in patient volume. NHC has also lost a significant number of experienced emergency department staff, with some RNs citing a toxic work environment as among the reasons for those departures. Today, nearly half of the nurses working in the ED are travel nurses, agency nurses or novice nurses.
- Contending that managers have targeted the most highly skilled nurses for unwarranted discipline, including termination, and have discouraged nurses from documenting potentially dangerous patient care conditions.
In addition to taking the vote, the nurses are embarking on an effort to mobilize community leaders and the public to pressure the NHC Board of Trustees to address this crisis. The nurses previously appealed to the Board in 2005 for support and no action was taken. The Board failed to act once again following the vote of no confidence by the physicians.
According to co-chair Freeman “We recognize that under Massachusetts law it is the Board of Trustees that is ultimately accountable for overseeing the management of Northeast. We hope that the public will join us in convincing the Board to take appropriate action to restore confidence in what is our community’s health care safety net.”