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As Heywood Healthcare Discusses Affiliation with UMass Memorial, MNA Nurses Call for Restoration of Essential Services at Heywood Hospital

MNA nurses at Heywood Hospital sound alarm about the closure of mental health and pediatric beds and lack of transparency from Heywood as the system talks affiliation with UMass

GARDNER, Mass. – Heywood Hospital nurses’ existing concerns about the quiet closure of mental health and pediatric beds at the hospital in recent years were intensified with the announcement that Heywood Healthcare is considering an affiliation with UMass Memorial. The closures have happened without public input or widespread community knowledge, prompting Heywood nurses to scrutinize the UMass affiliation talks and renew their calls for restoration of essential services.

Statement from Heywood Hospital MNA Co-Chairs Paula Robichaud, RN, and Kim Fuller, RN:

“Heywood Hospital nurses, represented by the MNA, will be scrutinizing the talks with UMass to protect patient care quality and ensure Heywood adheres to its obligations to nurses and the community. We hope that if there is an eventual affiliation with UMass, it would mean a restoration of essential pediatric and mental health services that have quietly closed at Heywood in recent years.

“CEO Win Brown has been dismantling services at Heywood without giving the public a chance to understand the impact and speak up for themselves. At least 12 adult mental health beds and a pediatric unit have closed at Heywood without Department of Public Health hearings. These bed closures have created barriers to care in a region already stricken by closures of similar units. Heywood’s maternity unit is also at risk because of chronic understaffing.

“This cost-cutting by Heywood and Brown has threatened patient care quality and made working conditions worse for nurses and other staff members. We call on Heywood Healthcare to keep care local, re-open or maintain essential healthcare services, and invest in improved staff recruitment and retention.”

Prior to the announcement, Heywood nurses had launched a community petition about the closure of hospital services: The petition reads, in part:

“Heywood Healthcare and CEO Win Brown must Keep Care Local:

  • Reopen the pediatric unit. These beds are an essential part of our community's healthcare system and serve a particularly vulnerable patient population.
  • Reopen the mental health unit. There were already patients waiting for mental healthcare in emergency departments before the pandemic. Now in communities like Gardner where mental health beds have closed, patients wait even longer or receive no care at all.
  • Protect the maternity unit. Understaffing places mothers and newborns at unnecessary risk for negative outcomes. If Heywood were to close the unit entirely, patients would have to travel much farther and longer, imposing a financial burden and creating potentially unsafe circumstances when a mother is in labor.”

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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.