When: Wednesday, October 11 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Where: 1 Ashburton Place, Boston
Who: Nurses and healthcare professionals employed by the state of Massachusetts who are fighting for a contract that will allow them to deliver the safe care their patients deserve in an environment that is safe for all.
BOSTON – Nurses and healthcare professionals (HCPs) from across the Commonwealth who are employed by the state of Massachusetts and unionized with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (under the title “Unit 7”) will converge on 1 Ashburton Place in Boston on Wednesday, October 11 at 12:30 p.m. Outside of the building, which houses the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, they will picket over the state’s ongoing, systemic problems with staff recruitment and retention, dangerous working conditions, understaffing, and an overall lack of respect by management.
The nurses and HCPs, who recently began contract talks with the state, are committed to winning contract language that will address these problems and restore the quality of care that patients and clients in state-run facilities deserve.
Patients and clients in Massachusetts’ owned and operated healthcare facilities, centers, and group homes are often among the state’s most at-risk and vulnerable citizens. With state services reaching into every corner of the Commonwealth and touching an exceptionally diverse group of patients and families, it is hard to argue that the role of the Unit 7 state healthcare worker is anything less than essential.
Yet, at nearly every state-run healthcare facility, there are not enough staff members or resources to provide the safe, quality care that patients and clients deserve.
“The working conditions are unhealthy and dangerous, and the wages are significantly behind the wages of other healthcare institutions,” said David Guiney, a Department of Public Health RN at Tewksbury Hospital and co-chair of the Unit 7 Executive Board.
Unit 7 RNs and HCPs who start at the first step of their contractual wage scale will see a 67 percent wage increase by the time they reach the top step. Meanwhile, RNs working at other Massachusetts hospitals see an average increase of nearly 130 percent over the span of their contractual wage scales.
“Unit 7 staff leave because the working conditions are so bad and because the pay is so out of line,” explained Guiney. “But because the conditions are so bad, and because the pay is so out of line the Commonwealth cannot replace them … nobody wants to take these jobs. It is a vicious cycle, and one that endangers patients and staff alike.”
“Improvements will only come if the state listens to, respects, and values its nurses and HCPs,” added Guiney. “Only then will they be able to hire and retain the staff needed to care for our patients the way they deserve. In the meantime, those vulnerable patients and clients are being put at risk unnecessarily.”
The Unit 7 nurses and healthcare professionals are also reporting a significant uptick in workplace violence. “Many of our members work with patients combatting serious mental health issues, traumatic experiences, drug-use disorders, or all of the above,” said Guiney. “Others are forensic clients. Without enough staff or resources, we cannot provide the care these patients need. They wait too long for care. They grow angry, anxious, and frustrated. Or they are prone to violent outbursts. Sometimes they do not even understand where they are and what is happening. But in the end, it does not matter because the result is the same: violent, dangerous behaviors and reactions that often, quite literally, land on our members. We have had enough. The state needs to do better by us and our patients.”
Last week, the MNA, in preparation for a legislative hearing on its workplace violence prevention bill, released the following data that reflects what the MNA’s Unit 7 members are reporting:
- Acts of violence against healthcare workers occur at a rate five times to twelve times higher than the estimated rates for workers overall, according to a recent GAO report.
- Every 38 minutes in a Massachusetts healthcare facility, someone is either physically assaulted, endures verbal abuse, or is threatened, according to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association.
- Healthcare workers experience the most nonfatal workplace violence as compared to other professions, accounting for nearly 70% of all non-fatal workplace assaults, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unit 7 includes more than 1,300 state-employed registered nurses, physicians, pharmacists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dentists, speech and hearing therapists, and podiatrists. They work in just about every department in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts including the State Departments of Mental Health, Developmental Services, Public Health, Youth Services, Corrections, Medical Assistance, Social Services, Public Welfare, Transportation, Public Works, Administration and Finance, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Board of Registration in Nursing, the Board of Registration in Medicine, the Division of Industrial Accident, and the Division of Employment Security. They work in state-operated hospitals, state offices, group homes, clinics, health centers, nursing homes, schools, prisons, and shelters. These facilities are in every corner of the state. Unit 7 members provide a variety of health care and mental health services to some of the most vulnerable citizens of the Commonwealth, including the developmentally disabled, mentally ill, the homeless, prisoners, medically compromised foster children, disabled veterans, HIV and drug-affected mothers, and children.