By Paul Leighton Staff writer
October 21, 2008 12:28 am
View Original story in Salem news
BEVERLY, Mass.— More than 200 nurses have voted "no confidence" in Beverly Hospital CEO Stephen Laverty and are mounting a public campaign to get him fired, according to the nurses union.
Marie Freeman, a nurse at Beverly Hospital and the vice chairwoman of the union, said the union has sent letters to local politicians asking them to pressure the board of trustees to fire Laverty.
"We want our hospital back the way it used to be before this administration came in," Freeman said.
The no-confidence vote was taken this month by nurses at Beverly Hospital, Addison-Gilbert Hospital and the Hunt Center in Danvers who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Freeman said more than 200 of the union’s 600 nurses cast votes, and all but two voted against Laverty.
In a press release announcing the vote yesterday, the nurses union said Laverty and his administration have created a "punitive organizational culture that continues to be characterized by oppressive management practices."
The nurses say Beverly Hospital has doubled its emergency department capacity but has not added enough staff to keep up with the increasing number of patients. Experienced nurses have left the hospital due to a "toxic work environment," the union said.
The union also said managers have "targeted" nurses for "unwarranted discipline" and have discouraged nurses from documenting "potentially dangerous patient care conditions."
In an interview, Freeman said nurses are working overtime without pay because they are intimidated by their managers.
"People are so scared to speak up in this hospital. They’re very scared to speak up," Freeman said. "It’s kind of a punitive place. Their philosophy is to divide and conquer, to pit people against people and use scare tactics."
Gregory Bird, the hospital’s chief nursing officer and senior vice president for patient care services, said he was "stunned" by the nurse union’s accusations.
"They are clearly not congruent with the sentiments of the nurses that I interact with on a daily basis throughout our hospital system," Bird said, "and I am confident that the majority of the nurses would reject them."
Chip Payson, vice president of external affairs, said hospital officials are "disappointed" with the union’s statements.
"We do not believe that the MNA’s expressed point of view is consistent with the facts or the sentiment of the broader nursing work force," Payson said.
The vote by the nurses union comes on the heels of a similar no-confidence vote by doctors at Beverly Hospital in April. Dr. Jonathan Schreiber, president of the Northeast Hospital Corp. medical staff, declined to comment yesterday on the nurses’ vote.
Nancy Palmer, chairwoman of the Northeast Hospital Corp. board of trustees, could not be reached for comment. Northeast Hospital Corp. is the parent company of Beverly Hospital.
Freeman said the nurses union appealed to the hospital board of trustees to address the issue in 2005. Since that request "fell on deaf ears," she said, the union decided to bypass trustees this time and appeal directly to the public.
"The politicians have an obligation to protect their community," Freeman said. "Hopefully, they will recognize the crisis we have and make calls to the board of trustees and help us out."
Beverly state Rep. Mary Grant said she was unaware of the nurses’ no-confidence vote but would be willing to meet with them to discuss their concerns.
"When it gets to this level, it’s serious," she said. "You have to pay attention, and you have to figure out a solution. The good thing is the hospital has had very good ratings in what it’s delivering."
The board of trustees hired Laverty in 2000 as president and chief executive officer of Northeast Health System, which includes hospitals in Beverly, Gloucester and Lynn and outpatient centers in Danvers and Ipswich. The board has credited Laverty with overseeing an expansion at Beverly Hospital and opening a new medical center in Danvers.
In 2005, Beverly Hospital was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing employees to "workplace violence in the form of aggressive and/or abusive behavior and language from patients and employees at your facility."
Last month, former hospital executive Paul Galzerano was arrested and accused of stealing paintings and other valuables from the hospital during the expansion that he helped to oversee.
Freeman, who has worked as a critical care nurse at Beverly Hospital for 22 years, said the atmosphere has changed under Laverty.
"You could go up to the past CEO and tell him your concerns, and he would listen to you," she said. "The past director of nurses had an open-door policy and met with the union reps every two weeks.
"It was more like a family-type thing, and that’s just not there anymore. It’s like we don’t have a voice."
Nurses’ complaints against Stephen Laverty ADMINISTRATION
Doubled ER capacity without adding enough staff Targeted nurses for "unwarranted discipline, including termination"
Discouraged nurses from documenting "potentially dangerous patient care conditions"
Exposed workers to "workplace violence"
Intimidated nurses to forgo overtime pay
Favored Beverly Hospital at expense of Addison-Gilbert Hospital