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Massachusetts Workers’ Rights Board Releases Report on Nurse Staffing Crisis at Tufts Medical Center

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Jennifer Doe 908.420.9632
May 3, 2011

Massachusetts Workers’ Rights Board Releases Report on Nurse Staffing Crisis at Tufts Medical Center as Nurses Prepare for One-Day Strike
Finds Patient Safety Compromised by Falling Staffing Numbers

BOSTON, Mass – Members of the Massachusetts Workers Rights Board, hand-delivered a report today to Tufts Medical Center CEO Ellen Zane that documents serious concerns the board has about the quality and safety of patient care at the hospital, as well as the treatment of registered nurses who are attempting to convince management to improve inadequate staffing conditions. The delegation included political, faith, and community leaders who are concerned over the actions taken in recent days regarding nurses at the medical center.

On April 13 a panel of the Massachusetts Workers’ Rights Board that included Board Chair Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Hillel B’nai Torah, neurology specialist Dr. Rachel A. Nardin, Christina Knowles of Mass NOW, Jeff Stone of Greater Boston Civil Rights Coalition, and Ben Day, Executive Director of MassCARE took testimony from nurses and health care experts. The testimony has resulted in a six page report on a crisis situation that nurses and patients face at Tufts Medical Center. The panel has concluded that Tufts “management is failing to listen to the serious concerns about changes in RN staffing levels at the hospital that are compromising the quality and safety of patient care.”

The report’s release comes just days before 1,100 nurses at Tufts Medical Center are scheduled to hold a one-day strike for patient safety on May 6, 2011, which is National Nurses Day. As the report documents, while the nurses are hoping to reach agreement on contract language that will set safe limits on nurses patient assignments, the hospital is refusing to agree to any enforceable standard of care.

The report states, “We are deeply concerned about the rigid position taken by Tufts Medical Center management in these negotiations, specifically their refusal to engage in any dialogue with the nurses over the nurse’s most pressing concern, which is the need for an improved and enforceable staffing plan to ensure safer patient care. We are also concerned that instead of negotiating with the nurses, management has used its resources and energy to publicly castigate the nurses and to misrepresent their legitimate concerns for their patients and this community. We are appalled to learn that instead of negotiating a settlement to improve care, the hospital has committed, by its own public statements to spend a minimum of a million dollars per day to force the nurses to strike, and then lock them out for a minimum of five days. This action is reckless and punitive, not only to the nurses and the other employees impacted by this action, but to the patients who will be admitted to this hospital to be cared for by nurses flown in from all over the country who have no experience in working in what is admittedly a very complex hospital environment.”

Rabbi Barbara Penzner, chair of the panel, provided a poignant statement about the moral dimension of the nurses’ struggle. “This is not a fight about numbers, not about the survival of a big name institution, and not about shareholders. You are responsible to the patients and that is what this fight is all about. You are the people on the frontlines and I urge you to continue with your courage and perseverance to continue this fight on behalf of those who cannot speak. I also wish you a sense of hope that you will win this fight.”

The Massachusetts Workers’ Rights Board is a board of community, faith, and political leaders who lend their names, time, and support to the workers’ rights struggle. It gives workers who are subjected to unjust practices an opportunity to have their voices heard. It was founded in 1996 in response to the decline in government enforcement of labor and workplace laws as a way to give an alternative resource for justice when workers’ rights are violated.

For more information or to set up interviews with panelist or testifiers please contact Jennifer Doe at or (908) 420-9632.