News & Events

RNs at MetroWest Medical Center picket for safer staffing levels

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2012/January 2013 Edition

The RNs of MetroWest Medical Center’s Leonard Morse Hospital campus conducted an informational picket in front of the Natick-based facility in November to call for desperately needed improvements in patient care conditions at the for-profit community hospital.

“The primary reason you are in a hospital is because your condition is so serious you require around-the-clock attention by one of these nurses, who are specially trained to monitor your condition from minute-to-minute and take immediate action to save your life,” said Lynn Shaw, co-chair of the MNA local bargaining unit for the 189 nurses who work at MetroWest/Leonard Morse Hospital. “Right now the hospital is failing to provide appropriate staffing levels, which hampers our ability to be at our patients’ bedside when they need us most. The signs on this picket line tell the story, we need safe staffing and we need it now.”

According to official staffing plans posted on the Mass. Hospital Association’s “Patient Care Link” web site, MetroWest Medical Center has the worst RN staffing levels in the region, and among the worst staffing in the state. It is not uncommon for MetroWest nurses to have six to eight patients at a time, which according to the latest medical research, places those patients at a 14 – 30 percent increased risk for injury or death.

“When nurses have too many patients to care for at one time, complications are more likely, and here at MetroWest we have been warning management about these conditions for months. Yet they refuse to address this growing patient safety crisis,” said Vicki Emerson, RN, the other co-chair of the bargaining unit.

The owner of the hospital, Vanguard Health Care, is a multi-billion dollar, for-profit corporation that also owns St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, where Vanguard has negotiated a contract with those nurses that includes safe RN-to-patient staffing levels to ensure high quality patient care. The nurses at MetroWest Medical Center are in negotiations for a new union contract and are simply asking Vanguard to provide its patients in the MetroWest region with the same safe standard of care they are providing patients in Worcester.

The other sticking point in the negotiations is the hospital’s demand that those nurses who work overtime no longer receive overtime pay for the first hour they work beyond their scheduled shift.

“This is clearly a case of Vanguard adding insult to injury. Because they don’t provide enough staff, nurses are rarely able to finish their extensive documentation and their patients’ care by the end of the shift, forcing them to work longer while already exhausted,” Shaw explained. “Now they want to penalize us financially for putting us in that situation. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is no way to treat patients or nurses.”

The nurses and management began negotiations for a new union contract in November 2011, with 15 negotiation sessions held to date. The nurses’ contract officially expired on Dec, 31, 2011.