News & Events

Northeast Health Corp. CEO resigns following “no confidence” vote from RNs

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2008 Edition

After casting a vote of no confidence in their CEO in October, the registered nurses at Northeast Health Corporation (NHC) were able to sit back and watch as Stephan R. Laverty, the hospital system’s embattled leader, finally resigned.

Laverty’s departure came after a sizable number of MNA-represented nurses at NHCowned Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester signed a petition that, in effect, held his administration responsible for “a punitive organizational culture that continues to be characterized by oppressive management practices” which were “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 came amidst recurring allegations from such groups as Partners of Addison Gilbert Hospital that Laverty and his management team had favored Beverly Hospital at the expense of Addison Gilbert Hospital.

The MNA believed the vote reflected a growing crisis in the relationship between senior management and the frontline nurses at NHC. “It was clear from this vote, and the previous vote of the physicians, that members of the health care team lost confidence in the leadership and in the direction of this organization, and I think that had 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 ensure that our administrators create conditions that enable us to provide the quality patient care our patients deserve.”

The MNA had received reports from nurses asserting that:

  • After doubling its emergency department capacity at Beverly Hospital, NHC did not add 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.
  • Managers targeted the most highly skilled nurses for unwarranted discipline, including termination, and discouraged nurses from documenting potentially dangerous patient care conditions.

In addition to taking the vote, the nurses embarked on an effort to mobilize community leaders and the public to pressure the NHC Board of Trustees to address the 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.”