News & Events

As Tufts Nurses Head Back to Table on Friday to Avert a Strike, Nurses Raise Safety Concerns About TMC’s Plan to Bring in Strike Replacement Nurses

P R E S S  R E L E A S E


For Immediate Release                                                    Contact:    David Schildmeier, 781-249-0430

Date:  July 6, 2017


The Truth About Strike Replacement Nurses

Tufts Medical Center Hiring Mercenary Nurses with No Knowledge of TMC’s Policies, Procedures, Physicians and Patient Population to Take the Place of 1,200 Highly Specialized Tufts Nurses Fighting for Their Patients and Profession

Strike Replacement Nurses Have Been Shown to Increase the Risk of Patient Harm According to Recent Research and a Number of High Profile Incidents in Recent Years

Talks to Avert a Strike Scheduled for Friday

CANTON, Mass. – During a planned one-day strike July 12 by 1,200 Tufts Medical Center nurses, TMC management plans to bring in mercenary replacement nurses from all over the country who do not know the hospital, are not highly specialized like the Tufts nurses, and who the Massachusetts Nurses Association believes will endanger patient care.

“Tufts nurses are irreplaceable,” said Mary Havlicek Cornacchia, an OR nurse and bargaining unit co-chair. “We walk the halls of this hospital every day, many of us for decades. We have an intimate knowledge of the hospitals computer system, the unique and varied policies and procedures that govern our care of patients at TMC; we are familiar with all the specialized technology and equipment used to care for our patients.  We know and have worked with the physicians at the hospital and cared for their patients for years. There is no way that nurses outside of this facility, who have never worked in this hospital can step in and provide safe patient care to our patients.  We are appalled that our administration wants to force a strike and lockout of our dedicated staff, and to do so, would subject our patients to such substandard care. Without the 1,200 TMC nurses, the hospital is inoperable.”

The nurses and management, who have been negotiating a new contract for the nurses since April of 2016, will be meeting on Friday with a federal mediator for another round of negotiations to avert the strike.  If that effort fails, the hospital is pushing ahead with its plan to operate the hospital at full strength with the mercenary nurses. 

History, academic studies and unionized registered nurses can all testify to the fact that mercenary replacement nurses cannot make up for the temporary loss of nurses who are specialized in their fields and knowledgeable of their patients and the hospital systems.

A 2010 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded, “Hiring replacement workers apparently does not help: hospitals that hired replacement workers performed no better during strikes than those that did not hire substitute employees. In each case, patients with conditions that required intensive nursing were more likely to fare worse in the presence of nurses’ strikes.”

During the 2000 strike by MNA nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, three replacement nurses recruited by the same strike replacement nurse agency Tufts plans to use, were fired after separate incidents in which they left a patient alone after surgery and also gave the wrong baby to a nursing mother, according to news reports by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and WCVB Channel 5. Another patient was given a nearly fatal overdose of morphine because a replacement nurse misunderstood a doctor’s order, according to Channel 5.

See more about these patient safety problems in a video here.

Last fall more than 4,000 nurses at Minneapolis-based Allina Health went on strike and were replaced by more than 1,500 strike replacement nurses recruited from all across the country with only five days of preparation.  During the strike, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported on the filing by the Minnesota Nurses Association of more than 80 reports from patients and families to the Department of Public Health, including medical errors, patient falls and other mistakes in the care of patients by the strike breakers. 

In 2011, WQKED in California reported on a 66-year-old patient at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, who died due to an error committed by a replacement nurse. The nurse was on duty because the hospital, which had five-day contracts with substitutes for regular nurses on a one-day strike, locked out the regulars for an additional four days, which is what Tufts is threatening to do if the nurses strike. 

Tufts Medical Center has said it plans to hire 300 temporary nurses to provide patient care during a potential one-day strike and four day lockout of the nurses. Tufts is spending millions of dollars to recruit these nurses from all over the country, including offering pay of $65 per hour, plus paying for all travel room and board.  These nurses will be expected to work more than 60 hours in less than a week. 

The hospital does not tell the public how unrealistic it is that these 300 replacement nurses could make up for the temporary loss of the 1,200 Tufts nurses. If an agreement can’t be reached in the next few days, the nurses are planning to walkout and not work for one 24-hour period starting at 7 a.m. on July 12 in protest of TMC failing to provide a fair contract settlement offer. The hospital has responded by threatening to lock out nurses for four days following the potential strike day, thereby exposing patients, which include those undergoing heart and lung transplants, and very ill babies cared for in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, to care by this cadre of inexperienced mercenary nurses. 

Tufts nurses are outraged that the hospital is choosing to spend millions of dollars to lock out its nurses to avoid making necessary improvements in care. 

“It can take several weeks to orientate even an experienced nurse to provide quality care under normal conditions," said Barbara Tiller, union co-chair and an IV/PICC/CRN nurse. “How can they possibly expect to safely operate this hospital with nurses drawn from all parts of the country who have no experience with our facility? It is irresponsible. Instead of issuing ultimatums and spending millions of dollars to ignore us, it’s time they listened to us and offered a fair settlement that values safe patient care over corporate profits.”

For more details about negotiations and outstanding nurse issues see this news release.

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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.