The approximately 350 registered nurses of Beth Israel Lahey Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Mass., who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, will hold an informational picket on Thursday, March 9. The action is intended to draw public attention to numerous ongoing problems inside the hospital, including the chronic understaffing of nurses; the failure of the hospital to both improve nurse recruitment/retention; and the failure of the hospital to provide RNs with resources essential to the delivery of quality care.
Date: Thursday, March 9, 2023
Time: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Location: Corner of Low St. & Wallace Bashaw Jr. Way, Newburyport (Low St. entrance to AJH)
Who: Nurses and all caregivers, MNA members from the region, other union supporters, families, community healthcare activists
“We are currently in a staffing crisis at Anna Jaques, and it’s getting worse,” said Margaret Mirecki, RN and MNA committee member at the hospital. “We are trying to provide the highest-quality care possible to the people of this community, and we are failing. The hospital is losing and is struggling to find and keep experienced nurses. We need AJH executives to listen to us, and then to find and manage appropriate solutions.”
Countless AJH nurses are leaving for hospitals where staffing and workplace conditions are better. Meanwhile, RNs will not come to AJH from surrounding hospitals because they do have better staffing. As a result, there is an endless “churn” of nurses throughout the hospital.
Adding to the nurses’ frustration and anger over the nursing crisis at AJH is the fact that the hospital is part of one of the state’s largest and most profitable hospital networks — Beth Israel Lahey, which was the result of the 2019 merger between Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey Health. Prior to the merger, one of the key arguments BI and Lahey’s executives made to Massachusetts’ healthcare decision-makers was that they should be allowed to merge because the larger system would provide greater resources to community hospitals.
“We have seen the exact opposite,” stated Mirecki.
Rather than enhanced resources, AJH management has forced a litany of problems and challenges onto its nurses and the patients they care for:
- Nurses at AJH are the lowest paid in Merrimack Valley, which is the greatest driving force behind the hospital’s understaffing and endless churn of RNs.
- There is a continuous shortage of key supplies that nurses need to do their jobs.
- CT services in the hospital are haphazard at best, and completely missing at worst. This is the result of a mass resignation by CT techs that occurred in August, as well as chronic mechanical issues with the machine itself. “We have gone days on end without CT services, with management only offering inadequate and unrealistic alternatives that jeopardize patient care, presumably because they don't want to admit that CT is closed,” described Mirecki. “Instead, we find out when CT is available via posted sticky notes on the department window.”
- AJH executives have cut ties with Salem State's RN program, resulting in the lost opportunity to recruit those new nurses.
- Management closed the hospital’s pediatrics unit and renounced its trauma center designation, thereby eliminating two key essential services that the community relied on.
- The Mass. Attorney General’s Office has been investigating many ongoing staff complaints over the fall and winter of inaccurate paychecks far beyond any normal rate of errors, and over a pattern of no meal breaks even in shifts of 12 hours or longer.
“Management’s track record of misguided decisions is jeopardizing the safety of our patients and the health of our community,” said Mirecki. “But we’re going to fight to make our hospital the best it can be — be that on the picket line, in meetings with management, or through the National Labor Relations Board.”