GREENFIELD, Mass – At least five new Department of Public Health reports of mandatory overtime forced on Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses – each instance clearly in violation of a state law banning the practice – demonstrate Baystate Health’s unwillingness to work in good faith with nurses to address unsafe patient care and nurse working conditions.
On Thursday, April 27, the hospital’s more than 200 registered nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, will join with supporters from all corners of Franklin County as they hold an informational picket and call on Baystate to bargain in good faith and agree to a fair contract for nurses, enabling them to provide the best possible care for patients and the entire community.
What: Baystate Franklin Medical Center RN Informational Picket
When: Thursday, April 27 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Where: Outside BFMC at 164 High St. in Greenfield, MA
Who: BFMC nurses, hospital staff, friends, family, union and community supporters and elected officials. Media and public welcome.
“The public deserves to know about the effects of mandatory overtime and staffing issues on patient care and nurse working conditions at their community hospital,” said Donna Stern, a psychiatric RN and chair of the BFMC RN Bargaining Committee. “By failing to schedule enough nurses or forcing nurses to work through meal breaks and routinely past the end of their shifts, Baystate is making it more and more difficult for exhausted, overworked nurses to provide the best care for patients. This is eroding Baystate’s own nursing staff. Baystate executives say that they consider these unsafe conditions ‘typical’ and tell the public there is nothing to see. But nurses know these conditions are not typical or safe for our patients.”
New DPH Reports of Mandatory Overtime
Baystate has repeatedly violated the state law against mandatory overtime for nurses, forcing BFMC nurses to work past the end of their shifts because of routine staffing issues, not actual emergencies. State Department of Public Health records showed at least 19 such incidents between July and December 2016 – all of which appear to be inconsistent with the law. A more recent DPH report shows that Baystate required nurses to stay beyond their shifts at least five times between Feb. 5, 2017 and March 12, 2017 without the presence of an emergency that would permit an exception to the law.
“Forcing nurses to work beyond their scheduled shifts creates fatigued nurses and unsafe patient care conditions,” Stern said. “Mandatory overtime is just one, egregious example of how Baystate refuses to schedule enough nurses for its patients and then scrambles to figure it out later.
“Nurses are also constantly being asked to work extra shifts. Schedules are routinely posted weeks in advance with open nurse shifts in them, with the expectation that nurses will work overtime or work back-to-back shifts to fill in for staff who were never put on the schedule. Staff are working exhausted without rest because we do come in out of commitment to our patients and to each other. But management is taking advantage of that. RNs not only can’t take breaks while at work, we can’t plan on having time off in between shifts either.
“Making matters worse, at the urging of management most RNs switched from three 12-hour shifts a week to five eight-hour shifts. But now we often work 10 or 12 hours five days a week. We can’t even rest on the weekends to make up for it anymore because management recently ordered all RNs to start working every other weekend to make up for the lack of staff. We are struggling to provide the patient care we are trained to provide, but people are exhausted and RNs are leaving.”
Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a ban on mandatory overtime for Massachusetts nurses in August 2012. The law prohibits mandatory overtime, which is defined as “any hours worked by a nurse in a hospital setting to deliver patient care beyond the predetermined and regularly scheduled number of hours that the hospital and nurse have agreed that the employee shall work, provided that in no case shall such predetermined and regularly scheduled number of hours exceed 12 hours in any given 24 hour period.”
The law explicitly states, “Mandatory overtime shall not be used as a practice for providing appropriate staffing for the level of patient care required.”
Health Policy Commission guidelines issued in 2013 further clarify the legal exceptions under which hospitals can use mandatory overtime for nurses. There are only three exceptions: a government-declared emergency, a catastrophic event such as a natural disaster and a hospital emergency.
The HPC guidelines state that a hospital emergency may be, for example, “a riot or other disturbance within the hospital, an extended power outage, system failure or other unexpected occurrence that impacts care delivery or compromises patient safety.” HPC explicitly says, “A hospital emergency shall not include a situation that is the result of routine staffing needs caused by typical staffing patterns, expected levels of absenteeism, or time off typically approved by the hospital for vacation, holidays, sick leave, and personal leave.”
None of the five new mandatory overtime instances BFMC reported to the DPH are consistent with the law and HPC guidelines. Contact Joe Markman at 781-571-8175 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the DPH reports. Examples:
· On Feb. 5, 2017 the hospital reports that a staff member was injured and unable to work. Hospital says Mandatory Overtime (MOT) was needed to maintain safe staffing levels. There is no explanation as to how this does not violate the “routine staffing” clause of the HPC guidelines.
· On Feb. 14, 2017 the hospital reports that only two RNs were scheduled for 16 patients. (already too few RNs even under the hospital’s own guidelines), and that one RN called out sick. Calls were made to find RNs but were not successful. There is no explanation as to how this does not violate the “routine staffing” clause of the HPC guidelines.
· On March 12, 2017 the hospital reports an RN called out because her mother died overnight. It was a busy maternity shift and the hospital paged RNs to come in but none were available. There is no explanation as to how this does not violate the “routine staffing” clause of the HPC guidelines.
Background on Bargaining
BFMC nurses have been bargaining with Baystate since November 2016. In recent weeks, nurses voted 93 percent to authorize a one-day strike, filed seven unfair labor practice charges against Baystate with the National Labor Relations Board and participated in several community events. The strike authorization vote gives the BFMC RN Bargaining Committee the authority to call for a one-day strike if and when it is necessary. No date has been scheduled.
Bargaining is over a new contract to replace the agreement that was scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2016. There have been 16 sessions held to date. A federal mediator joined the bargaining process in February.
Key outstanding issues include safe patient limits for nurses targeted to BFMC patient needs, security improvements and reversing Baystate’s recent erosion of nurses’ health insurance benefits and working conditions.
For more details including the NLRB charges and hospital schedules and text messages showing a pattern of BFMC not having enough nurses for its patients, please contact Joe Markman at 781-571-8175 or email@example.com.
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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is 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.