While over 700 nurses remain committed to the work stoppage and remain resolved to win a contract to ensure the safety of their patients, Tenet corporation continues to spend millions to prolong the strike, and after threatening to permanently replace the nurses who have cared for the community for decades, including the COVID crisis
WORCESTER, Mass. – Tomorrow, the nurses of St. Vincent Hospital mark their third month (13 weeks) on strike for safer staffing to ensure safer patient care against Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, continuing one of the longest nurses strikes nationally in over a decade.
The milestone comes as Tenet continues to spend upwards of $65 million* to prolong a strike to avoid addressing a longstanding patient safety crisis at the hospital, and after Tenet walked away from the negotiating table, delivering a cynical threat to permanently replace the nurses who together have given hundreds of years of service to the hospital and community, including last year, where they risked their safety and the safety of their own families to provide care during the worst public health crisis in our nation’s history.
“The 700 striking St. Vincent nurses remain united and committed to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety and dignity of our patients,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, a longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “Instead of issuing threats to replace the nurses who care for our patients, it is time for Tenet to permanently replace those at the top whose policies over the last two years have endangered them.”
The threat to replace the nurses has been met with outrage by local, labor and community groups, as well as by Senators Warren and Markey, Congressman McGovern and 32 federal, state and local public officials who penned a strongly worded letter to Tenet’s Chairman Ron Rittenmyer in Dallas last week, calling on him to get back to the table and address the nurses staffing demands to end the strike for the good of the community.
The nurses will continue their efforts to reach an agreement to end a strike that is focused on improving staffing levels at the hospital, staffing levels and working conditions that have forced more than 700 of them onto the street, conditions that before the strike, drove more than 100 nurses to leave the facility for other hospitals with safer working conditions. The nurses see no likelihood that the hospital can replace them as the strike has been widely lauded throughout the nursing community across the state and the nation, as the nurses have been held up as being heroes for the stand they are making in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
Hopes of continuing negotiations to end the strike were dashed on May 6, when Tenet refused the nurses’ offer to get back to the table. Ironically, Tenet ceased negotiations on National Nurses Day, the same day Tenet chose to hold its annual shareholders meeting, where they trumpeted their soaring stock price and the more than $400 million in profits they have generated from the work and sacrifice of nurses and other essential caregivers, including 800 nurses in Worcester, still walking the sidewalk outside one of its most profitable hospitals.
The strike began on March 8, after Tenet had refused to negotiate with the nurses over improvements the nurses are seeking to improve unsafe patient care conditions in the hospital. The decision followed earnest and painstaking efforts over the last two years by the nurses to convince Tenet to improve the patient care conditions at the facility, poor conditions that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The nurses’ strike has galvanized support from a variety of public officials, labor, faith-based organizations, and community advocates, including the entire Worcester City Council, the Worcester state legislative delegation, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey, Congressman Jim McGovern, Congresswoman Lori Trahan, and Attorney General Maura Healey, who have all visited the nurses strike line. Prior to the strike Senators Warren, Markey and Congressman McGovern sent another letter to Tenet’s CEO in Dallas urging Tenet to negotiate with the nurses to address the nurses’ concerns over needed staffing improvements to ensure safe care. On April 28, the Massachusetts Building Trades Council delivered a letter to Tenet CEO Carolyn Jackson announcing that the council will not be sending its 75,000 members to the hospital for care until the strike is resolved.
In the last year alone, nurses have filed more than 600 official “unsafe staffing” reports (more than 110 such reports have been filed since January 1, 2021) in which nurses informed management in real time that patient care conditions jeopardized the safety of their patients. The nurses also report their patients in Worcester have experienced an increase in patient falls, an increase in patients suffering from preventable bed sores, potentially dangerous delays in patients receiving needed medications and other treatments – all due to lack of appropriate staffing, excessive patient assignments, and cuts to valuable support staff.
For a more detailed review of the staffing crisis, efforts by nurses to convince Tenet to address the crisis, as well as proposals nurses are seeking to improve patient care, click here to view a previous press release on the matter.
*The estimate of $65 million is based on Tenet’s public disclosure at the outset of the strike that the cost of replacement nurses was $5.4 million for the first week multiplied by the 13 weeks of the strike, and also including the city’s confirmed weekly cost for police details of $210,000 multiplied by 12 weeks. This figure does not include the hospital’s cost for its own expanded internal security force, the installation of special high tech camera systems outside the hospital entrances, and the fleet of buses and vans the hospital is using to transport the strike replacement nurses to and from the facility throughout the day every day of the strike. The MNA last week sent a letter to Tenet CEO Carolyn Jackson, requesting a copy of the contracts for the strike replacement nurses so that the nurses, and the public have a full picture of the resources Tenet is using to prolong this strike.
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.