Statement attributable to St. Vincent striking nurse Marie Ritacco, RN who is also the vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association
The only obstacle to the St. Vincent Nurses being back in the hospital, and the person responsible for this crisis is Tenet Healthcare’s CEO Carolyn Jackson. We join the Governor in his concern for our patients and our community and we urge him to do whatever he can to convince the source of this stalemate, Ms Jackson, to finally negotiate an equitable end to the dispute that respects the nurses and ensures the safety of our patients.
The St. Vincent nurses want nothing more than to be back at the hospital bedside caring for our patients. In fact, we were ready to return to that hospital four weeks ago, when we agreed to staffing improvements negotiated throughout the strike and were ready to return to work to provide care, particularly during the current surge caused by the Delta variant. Unfortunately a final agreement was scuttled by Tenet when they demanded the nurses accept an unprecedented and punitive back to work provision that is not only unfair to nurses, but its replacement of highly skilled nurses with lesser qualified staff, would undermine all the patient safety gains the parties had negotiated. Nurses with 10 – 40 years of expertise in highly specialized units, such as the ICU, maternity unit and emergency department are being replaced by newly graduated nurses or novice nurses who under normal circumstances would never be allowed into those positions.
We are appalled that while refusing to remove this road block to a fair settlement, Carolyn Jackson and Tenet is prolonging this strike, callously endangering our entire community and overwhelming our health care system purely out of spite and their refusal to be held accountable for providing safe patient care and to treat their employees with the respect we deserve for our years of service to this hospital and the sacrifices we made to care for our community during the worst public health crisis in our nation’s history.
We went on strike to achieve safer patient care and can’t go back as long as the hospital’s dangerous return to work agreement denies our most fragile patients the experienced, expert care they deserve. The hospital’s proposal also called for the nurses to retract all the unfair labor practice charges, opening the door for Tenet to continue its efforts to retaliate against the striking nurses. We are clear that any negotiated Return to Work Agreement must also include a negotiated resolution of all the unfair labor practice charges the nurses have filed.
We sincerely hope Tenet will change its position, and in the meantime, we will continue to work through the federal mediators and the National Labor Relations to find a way to move the process forward. The ball has been and continues to be in Tenet’s court.