Baystate Noble Hospital nurses will hold an informational picket on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at noon following a community forum and survey showing overwhelming public support for preserving and improving services
WESTFIELD, Mass. – The registered nurses of Baystate Noble Hospital, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, filed unfair labor practice charges on Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after Baystate Health refused for months to respond to information requests from the nurses about councils, committees, boards and local trustees Baystate claims to rely on for public input when making decisions about hospital services.
Baystate has also refused to provide information to nurses about the impact of the Noble ICU closure in August 2019, data about staffing on the 2N/tele unit that merged last year and information nurses need to fully understand Baystate’s proposal to eliminate an important overtime standard.
Noble nurses have scheduled a safe, socially distanced informational picket on Wednesday, October 21 at 12 p.m. outside the hospital, prompted by Baystate’s failure to provide information and its refusal to agree to nurse contract proposals to preserve and improve hospital services and properly value the care nurses have provided during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice and community supporters have also launched a public petition at bit.ly/supportnoblenurses.
“Noble nurses have come together with the community to fight for quality, local hospital services,” said Paul Dubin, RN and MNA Co-Chair at Noble Hospital. “We cared for our community during the COVID-19 surge earlier this year and we are prepared to battle a second surge if necessary. Yet Baystate Health will not agree to a fair contract that values our hard work and allows Noble Hospital to recruit and retain the nurses it needs.”
“Baystate’s refusal to provide any information about its supposed community boards and committees confirms what we have known all along – Baystate executives make decisions about essential care behind closed doors based on profits,” Dubin said. “Baystate has a legal obligation to provide us information we need to bargain a fair contract and its executives are making every excuse to keep us in the dark. We have been remarkably transparent about all of our concerns and would appreciate the same transparency from Baystate management regarding their plans for the future of Baystate Noble Hospital.”
Noble nurses and State Senator John Velis hosted a Virtual Community Forum on the Future of Baystate Noble Hospital on October 6 following the release of a survey of more than 460 people showing Westfield area residents overwhelmingly support nurses’ efforts to preserve and improve patient care services at Noble in the face of cutbacks by Baystate.
Testimony about the need to preserve and improve local, high-quality services at Noble came from nurses, community leaders, emergency response personnel, mental health advocates, patients, and family members.
“Working in the ER you see whatever comes through,” said Mary Martin, an emergency department registered nurse of 20 years who was born at Noble. “When we have a staffing problem, like we do up on 2 North with the staffing cuts, we can’t get the patients admitted up there. They have to stay in the emergency department until there is staff. We have had up to 10 patients in our ER waiting for beds that are available, but staffing is not.”
Unfair Labor Practice Charges Highlights
- Noble nurses have had 12 bargaining sessions with Baystate since the beginning of the year, with a pause in negotiations during the COVID-19 surge.
- The nurses on the MNA Noble bargaining committee are focused on protecting hospital’s future and making nurses' wages and differentials more competitive with surrounding hospitals.
- ULP charges were filed Wednesday, October 7 by the MNA on behalf of Nobles nurses against Baystate Health and Baystate Noble Hospital.
- They were filed with the National Labor Relations Board, which will consider the charges and provide a determination.
- Nurses requested information about each council, board and committee providing input to Baystate Noble executives, including but not limited to the Patient and Family Advisory Committee, Community Advisory Committee, and Community Benefits Advisory Council:
- Mission and objectives of the board, council, or committee.
- Members of each board, council, or committee.
- Agendas and meeting minutes of each board, council or committee for 2017, 2018, 2019 and YTD 2020.
- Schedule of upcoming meetings including date, time, location, and the agenda for each meeting.
- Management responded that the information does not exist because the bodies are “informal.”
- Nurses requested the number of Baystate Noble patients who have transferred to Baystate Medical Center’s ICUs and other hospital ICUs since the 2019 Baystate Noble ICU closure, including diagnosis, wait time prior to the transportation of those patients, and the number of shifts when the Baystate Medical Center’s ICUs have been full since the 2019 ICU closure.
- Management responded, “We’re not under an obligation to provide that information.”
- Nurses also requested a list of Baystate Health trustees representing the Greater Westfield community.
- Management responded, “We’ve produced what we have.”
- Nurses have requested overtime utilization data because management is proposing removing overtime at the end of a shift (end-of-shift overtime is an MNA standard for nurses who often work non-standard schedules) and replacing with overtime after 40 hours in a week.