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Strike concerns grow at St. Vincent’s Hospital

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Strike concerns grow at St. Vincent’s Hospital
Mar 16, 2011 6:19pm

(NECN: Melissa Toupin, Worcester, Mass.) – There are new concerns about a possible strike at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester. It’s the latest development in an ongoing contract dispute between nurses and the hospital.

Outside St. Vincent hospital in Worcester Wednesday nurses picket as their latest contract extension expires. Inside, the contract talks continue. The major sticking point- safe staffing levels.

"We care for an unbelievable amount of patients at one time. Every day caring for too many patients that we are not able to give them the proper treatment they need," said Marlena Pellegrino, a nurse of nearly 25 years at St. Vincent Hospital.

The nurses union has been in negotiations with the hospital since 2009. Dennis Irish, spokesperson for St. Vincent Hospital says a federal mediator has been brought in to help work things out. Irish says the hospital is offering to bring staffing levels up to meet or exceed the numbers at other hospitals in the state. The hospital is also offering a 1% pay increase across the board.

"We feel the MNA is operating on the basis of a larger agenda," said Irish. The larger agenda that he fears includes a strike. St. Vincent officials say they recently found notes outlining plans for a simultaneous strike at three hospitals. Massachusetts Nurses Association would neither confirm nor deny that a strike is in the works.

"If that were to occur there are not enough replacement nurses available," said Irish. "In our opinion the health of the citizens of the respected hospital service areas would be in jeopardy."

Nurses say safe staffing is the same issue that led them to a 42 day walk out back in 2000. It’s something they are hoping to avoid this time around. "If it comes to a strike…I’ll be out there," said Beth Brennan, a nurse at St. Vincent Hospital. "Like I said, I am a safe nurse. I can only take care of one patient at a time. But if the rest of my constituents are there- I support my peers."

There is one thing both sides agree upon. Until this is sorted out the biggest losers will be the patients.