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Nurses protest QMC parent company Steward

Nurses protest QMC parent company Steward

QMC staff will join others in N.Y. protest

By Steve Adams The Patriot Ledger

Posted Dec 20, 2011 @ 12:30 AM Last update Dec 20, 2011 @ 01:56 AM

QUINCY — Nurses from Quincy Medical Center and nine other Boston-area hospitals planned to travel to New York today to protest the business practices of their new owners, Steward Health Care System.

Nurses planned a protest outside the offices of private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, Steward’s parent company.

Boston-based Steward has introduced cost-cutting measures that harm patient care, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

Staffing levels have been reduced and specialty units eliminated since Steward took ownership of the hospitals, the nurses’ groups said.

A Steward spokesman disputed the group’s claims, saying that all of the hospitals’ major services are intact, although they frequently adjust staffing and programs based upon patient demand.

“Sometimes smaller service lines change because community needs change,” Steward spokesman Chris Murphy said.

Murphy tied this week’s protest to nurses’ ongoing dispute with the company over their pension plan. At a hearing in August, nurses testified that Steward would not agree to a pension plan they had negotiated with previous owner Caritas Christi hospitals.

Murphy defended Steward nurses’ compensation packages, saying they had a contractually obligated 25-percent wage increase coming over the next four years.

“They are very well paid,” Murphy said. “The nurses in these hospitals and the MNA leadership never complain about quality unless it’s negotiation time.”

Nurses also criticized Steward’s recently announced partnership with the Compass Medical group of 90 doctors south of Boston. Compass had previously been aligned with Partners HealthCare. The move means that Compass physicians will likely refer more patients to Steward-owned hospitals rather than nonprofit hospitals, potentially disrupting the balance of competition in the industry, the nurses group said.

Attorney General Martha Coakley approved the sale of QMC to Steward with the condition that it invest up to $54 million on the facility over the next decade.

Steve Adams may be reached at .

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