News & Events

Nurses Picket at Leominster Hospital

P R E S S   R E L E A S E

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Charlie Rasmussen
April 14, 2011 781-363-0728

Threat to the Quality of Patient Care and Contract at Issue

Today, the Registered Nurses at UMass Memorial/Health Alliance Leominster Campus Hospital held an informational picket in order to enlighten the public about serious issues affecting the quality of patient care and to share the nurses’ struggle for a fair and equitable contract. The nurses, members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association bargaining Unit, have been in negotiations with the hospital since November of 2010 and have not reached an agreement. The quality of patient care they are able to deliver is a serious issue for the nurses. In the last five years 79 eight-hour shifts have been eliminated in the hospital. This means the number of registered nurses has declined to a point which has affected the quality of care patients receive.

“As the hospital has cut shifts for nurses, the remaining RNs are required to do more with less, leaving the floor nurses overworked. This is not good for the patients or the nurses. As we see the acuity of our patients rise, often we are required to spend time with new technology rather than with our patients. We are pulled in so many directions it is humanly impossible to give the excellent care we all wish we could. It is not surprising patient surveys show that patient satisfaction numbers have fallen. In addition, as the hospital continues to increase the workload of nurses, they are also attempting to discipline RNS for minor clerical infractions, “ said bargaining unit chair, Natalie Pereira, RN.

In an attempt to cover short staffing, the hospital has come up with one plan that would only make the issue more dangerous. In the Foster Wing, which was previously classified as an ICU ‘step down’ unit with a nurse to patient ratio of 1:4, the hospital changed the unit name to “Telemetry” with staffing of 1:5. Many nurses feel this is wrong since the acuity of patients never really changed. Now, the hospital wants the charge nurse to take a 2-5 patient assignment and at the same time be assigned to the hospital-wide Rapid Response Team which would take the charge nurse off the unit for extended periods of time leaving the charge nurse’s patients to the floor nurses, further increasing their nurse-to-patient ratio.  

Also disturbing to the nurses is the massive increase to their health care insurance costs. While reducing the number of nursing positions in the hospital, the administration has also made a concerted effort to reduce the number of scheduled hours a nurse works, resulting in only 27 forty-hour positions and 80 twenty-four hour positions.

Historically the Collective Bargaining Agreement has a provision to pay full-time health insurance benefits for any nurse working 24 hours. Now, the hospital wants to remove that benefit and force 24-hour nurses to double or triple the cost of their health insurance contribution.

“Many nurses agreed to the cut in hours because the hospital continued to offer health insurance at the same cost. Now the hospital is asking the nurses to accept a very large increase in health care costs for 80+ nurses. The MNA has made counter proposals to spread the increased cost over a period of time, but management has refused our proposal,” said Pereira.

The nurses feel it is time for management to be fair and settle the contract. “We have offered many compromises to management which would resolve most of the outstanding issues. It is time for the administration to accept our proposals so we can get back to the primary task at hand, providing our patients with the quality care they deserve,” said Pereira.

Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses union in the United States with more than 150,000 members from coast to coast.