When: Thursday, July 11 at 5 p.m.
Where: Nashoba Sports & Physical Therapy; 788 Boston Road, Groton, Mass.
Who: Elected leaders, members of other unions, and concerned citizens
GROTON, Mass – The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), elected leaders, and local labor activists will gather outside Nashoba Sports & Physical Therapy in Groton starting at 5 p.m. on July 11 to draw further public attention to the ongoing nurse-staffing shortage that continues to plague Nashoba Valley Medical Center (NVMC), which also owns and operates the physical therapy clinic. Participants will be handing out this leaflet to passersby, as well as holding an eight-foot banner that reads, “Nashoba Valley Medical Center! Put Your Patients Before Profits!” Both the hospital and the physical therapy clinic are part of the for-profit corporation Steward Healthcare.
NVMC has been turning away patients because the for-profit owners do not devote the resources necessary to recruit and retain nurses and other staff.
The MNA nurses at NVMC have been in contract talks with management since December of 2018, and their efforts at the table have been focused on winning contract improvements that will help resolve the issues of nurse recruitment and retention. This has included fighting for both wage improvements and staffing language. Currently, NVMC nurses earn up to 21% less than their nursing counterparts at comparable hospitals. This has led to a staffing shortage so acute that on May 1 the 124 RNs at NVMC cast a 100% yes vote authorizing a one-day strike should hospital management fail to address the issues affecting nurses’ ability to deliver the best care.
Other details about NVMC’s nurse-staffing shortage include:
- RN turnover is 200% of the Northeast hospital average of 16.5% percent annually, and the current RN vacancy rate is more than 200% of the national average.
- Schedules always have “holes.” Management can’t say what RNs will be assigned to what shifts because there aren’t enough RNs on staff.
- Of the 363 Emergency Room RN shifts for 7/11/19 through 8/31/19, 100 do not have an RN assigned (as of 7/1/19).
- Patients are frequently transferred out because there is not enough staff.
- More details and examples are included in the day-of leaflet that supporters will be handing out to the public.
“Our hospital has an excellent reputation in the community, and it is staffed with great, dedicated caregivers,” said Fran Karaska, co-chair of the MNA bargaining unit at NVMC. “But the hospital’s inability to recruit and retain RNs, due to a lack of competitive wages, will harm both the hospital and community in the long term.”
Steward Healthcare, which is owned by the private equity company Cerberus Capital Management, has the resources to improve nurse staffing at NVMC, including:
- In Sept. of 2016 Steward/Cerberus sold the properties of its nine Mass. hospitals for $1.25 billion to a real estate investment trust.
- In Sept. of 2017 the company sold the properties of 10 other out of state hospitals to the real estate investment trust for $1.4 billion.
- In the past two years, Steward/Cerberus bought 26 hospitals in the U.S. and three in Malta.
The company has many executives. At the top is Cerberus’ CEO Stephen Feinberg, whose personal net worth is a reported $1.6 billion.
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.