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GREENFIELD, Mass. – The registered nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, on Monday gave the hospital notice of a planned one-day strike on Wednesday, April 11.
As nurses issued the notice, they continued to urge members of the Baystate Health Board of Trustees to take action and help settle a fair contract. The nurses plan to visit Board of Trustee member Robert Bacon at Elm Electric, 68 Union St in Westfield at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 26 to urge him and other trustees to help them settle their contract.
“If Baystate could settle a fair contract down the street at Noble Hospital, they should be able to do it in Greenfield,” said RN Donna Stern, Senior Co-Chair of the BFMC RN Bargaining Committee. “Our nurses, our community members, the federal government and independent organizations have for years identified patient care problems at our hospital. Baystate itself has acknowledged the problems, but refuses to solve them. Our nurses will not back down from trying to improve patient care. We will hold a one-day strike if necessary to make sure our patients get the high-quality care they deserve.”
Nurses provided the hospital more than the 10-day strike notice required by law. A 24-hour strike is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, April 11 and end at 7 a.m. on Thursday, April 12.
On February 8, BFMC nurses voted by 85% to authorize a potential one-day strike. A strike planned for February 28 was postponed when Baystate agreed to return to the bargaining table. Nurses hoped this postponement would open space for negotiations to proceed toward a fair agreement. The parties met several times after the postponement and reached compromises on some issues, including health insurance, but Baystate refused to make any commitments on real improvements to RN staffing and patient care.
Why Inadequate RN Staffing is a Patient Care Problem:
- Because of chronic short staffing, nurses are working while exhausted. According to data provided to the MNA by Baystate, in the most recent 12 months ending 3/1/2018:
- There were 2,885 shifts of 12 or more hours and 486 shifts of 13 hours or more. Shifts longer than 12 hours are against national best nursing practices.
- There were 751 shifts in which a nurse was scheduled to work 8 hours but worked 12 hours or more. Of those, 191 lasted 13 hours or more.
- There were 36 shifts of more than 16 hours. All RN shifts over 16 hours are illegal in Massachusetts.
- The longest uninterrupted shift was 19 ½ hours.
- In total, there were 14,947 overtime shifts (excluding shifts less than 8 hours 10 minutes)
- Baystate has marketed its 2017 iVantage Health Analytics score, placing BFMC in the top 100 rural and community hospitals in the United States. Except BFMC actually received NEGATIVE scores for patient outcomes from iVantage last year. In fact, scores that helped place BFMC in the top 100 were about its “financial stability” and “market share.”
- This makes sense when you consider the federal government cut Medicare payments to BFMC last year because of its high rate of patients acquiring infections at the hospital.
Safe Patient Care Solutions
- BFMC nurses are seeking a commitment that in the emergency department, the oncology unit, the medical surgical/telemetry and intensive care units that the charge nurses will be without a patient assignment throughout their shift to effectively coordinate care and help as needed.
- Charge nurses need to be able to effectively coordinate care and to assist other nurses. If their patient assignments are eliminated or reduced but their fellow nurses have even heavier patient assignments, the problems nurses have identified for years will worsen.
- Baystate Health has the financial means to provide safe staffing and fair RN benefits and wages. It ended 2014 and 2015 with a combined $121 million in profits, according to the state. During fiscal year 2016, BFMC alone reported $2.2 million in profits.
- Baystate CEO Dr. Mark Keroack made $1,472,000 in fiscal year 2016, which is $707.69 per hour.
BFMC nurses held a one-day strike on June 26, 2017 after voting by a 93% margin to authorize the strike. The nurses were preemptively locked out of the hospital by Baystate management, who kept the RNs from caring for their patients the evening before the strike. The lockout lasted for two days following the strike and involved Baystate spending $1 million to hire replacement nurses from outside the community instead of allowing BFMC nurses to care for their patients once the strike concluded.
Following the strike, Baystate gave its “best and final” to BFMC nurses on July 21. BFMC nurses voted to reject that offer on August 15. The MNA has filed more than 20 unfair labor practice charges against Baystate on behalf of BFMC nurses for, among other reasons, failing to bargain in good faith over mandatory subjects of bargaining such as nurse workload and health insurance.
BFMC nurses began negotiating for a new contract in November 2016 to replace the contract that expired Dec. 31, 2016. A federal mediator is involved in negotiations.