An informational picket by the dedicated and hardworking MNA nurses at both Steward Holy Family Hospitals. Other attendees will include local supporters, community leaders, neighbors, families, and friends.
Wednesday, Oct. 18
— Picket line at Holy Family Hospital Haverhill, 2:30 – 4 p.m.
— Picket line at Holy Family Hospital Methuen, 4:30 – 6 p.m.
— Holy Family Hospital, Haverhill; 140 Lincoln Ave, Haverhill, Mass.
— Holy Family Hospital, Methuen; 70 East St, Methuen, Mass.
On Wednesday, October 18, registered nurses at the two hospitals of Steward Holy Family in both Haverhill and Methuen, who are unionized with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), will hold informational pickets at each facility to draw attention to the struggles they are facing in delivering safe, quality care to their patients. They will also call on the hospitals’ owners and managers to treat the Holy Family RNs with the respect and equality that they deserve.
The Holy Family RNs have identified an ongoing and dangerous issue with both the recruitment and retention of new nurses on both campuses — an issue that is largely being driven by the lack of competitive pay by Steward. Second only to Beth Israel Lahey’s Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, the two Holy Family Hospitals’ wages are lower than any hospital in the northeast region of Massachusetts.
That salary difference is nearly 20% less for Holy Family RNs compared to their local counterparts. As a result, Holy Family nurses leave for better-paying positions at nearby hospitals while nurses who are looking for new jobs pass over jobs at Holy Family hospitals because, they too, can get better-paying jobs in better-staffed hospitals close by.
For the nurses who remain at the Haverhill and Methuen campuses, it means they are understaffed and are struggling to provide patients with the safe care they deserve. “There just aren’t enough nurses or resources,” said Karen Powers, a labor and delivery RN and co-chairperson of the MNA bargaining unit at Holy Family Hospital Methuen. “The market for nurses is highly competitive right now, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. The only way Steward Holy Family will succeed in this market is if they respect their nurses and pay them competitively. Until then, the hospital will be understaffed, and patient care and safety will be jeopardized.”
“We fought to provide the best care possible through the pandemic, and every day before and after,” added Jamie Garvey, an RN in the ICU and co-chairperson of the Holy Family Methuen MNA bargaining unit. “But we can’t keep up with the community’s needs when we keep losing staff.”
Nurses at the Haverhill campus shared similar details. “The lack of competitive wages here at Holy Family Haverhill has absolutely led to an acute and urgent staffing crisis,” said Jane Emory, RN and co-chairperson of her MNA bargaining unit. “In several units, we’ve watched the hospital close beds to the point where patient capacity has been dramatically reduced. This includes our geriatric psych unit, which went from 17 beds to 11, and our medical/surgical unit which went from 32 beds to 18.” Emory went on to explain that, in reality though, the med/surg unit generally only has about 14 beds open. “There’s rarely enough staff to cover a patient census of 18.”
The adult psych unit at the Haverhill campus has also been a victim of uncompetitive wages and the associated understaffing. “Both Holy Family campuses were struggling to staff their adult psych units, so our adult psych nurses were ‘temporarily’ transferred to Methuen,” added Emory. “That was 20 months ago. It’s pretty clear that new nurses are unwilling to take jobs in these stressful, sometimes dangerous units for the uncompetitive wages that Steward insists on offering.”
Between the two Holy Family campuses, there are a total of 550 MNA registered nurses working. But dozens more nursing positions remain unfilled.
The nurses at both Haverhill and Methuen are currently in contract talks, where there are proposals specific to staffing, recruitment, retention, and pay on the table, but little headway has been made.
“We are out here today to let managers know that we are serious about these proposals, and we have the local community, elected leaders, friends, family, and neighbors in our corner. We want to care safely for our patients, and our supporters want the same.”
Six negotiation sessions have been held to date at each campus, with the next sessions scheduled for October 24 and 26.