News & Events

Eight nurses from St. Vincent Hospital Filed Suit Today In Worcester Superior Court Against Tenet Healthcare for Wrongful Termination after Blowing the Whistle on Unsafe Patient Care Conditions that Jeopardize the Safety of Patients Admitted to the Worcester-based, For-profit Facility

Lawsuit follows findings by The Joint Commission (the body that accredits hospitals) supporting the St. Vincent nurses’ complaints stating that SVH was found to be non-compliant with applicable patient care conditions 

WORCESTER, MA – Eight registered nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association at St. Vincent Hospital filed a lawsuit today in Worcester Superior Court against the hospital and its owner, Dallas-based for-profit owner Tenet Healthcare alleging they were fired for exercising their legal and professional obligation to report “unsafe and illegal conduct and conditions” that jeopardized the health and dignity of the patients under their care.  Members of the media who wish to receive a copy of the complaint can contact David Schildmeier at

The suit was brought under the state’s Healthcare Whistleblower statute, which is designed to protect caregivers, including nurses from being fired or any other retaliatory action by their employer for disclosing, or threatening to disclose “to a public body an activity, policy or practice of the health care facility…that the health care provider reasonably believes is in violation of a law or rule or regulation…or in violation of professional standards of practice which the health care provider reasonably believes poses a risk to public health.” 

The suit cites regulations governing nursing practice in the Commonwealth that mandates that “registered nurses bear full responsibility for the quality of nursing care he or she provides to individuals or groups.” The same regulations also mandate that nurses, including nurses who are managers, “shall not engage in any conduct that fails to adhere to accepted standards of nursing practice or in any behavior that is likely to have an adverse effect upon the health, safety or welfare of the public.”  The regulations also mandate that nurse administrators are obligated to provide the resources to allow frontline nurses to meet these accepted standards of care, while the Department of Public Health obligates administrators to ensure the staffing required to meet patients’ needs. 

The lawsuit makes clear that the St. Vincent nurses met their legal obligations to protect their patients, while Tenet management failed to do so. As stated in the complaint:

“For over a year, there have been nursing staffing shortages in many units of SVH…This had led to ED nurses caring for far too many patients than is safe, including nurses sometimes taking up to a 20-patient assignment.  Patients are often left unattended in ED hallways, left to sit in their own urine and feces, and there are severe delays in triage and care.  In addition to the ED, over the past year there has been understaffing in various other SVH units. This has caused delays in care, the inability to timely transfer patients to the proper units, unsafe care, and patients to sit for extended periods in their own feces and urine. When the plaintiff nurses objected to providing unsafe care, SVH and Tenet fired them.”

In fact, last month the nurses’ claims were validated by The Joint Commission, which conducted an investigation into the nurses’ complaints and found the hospital to be “non-compliant with applicable Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Conditions.”

“These nurses did everything in their power and met every obligation under their license and the law to protect their patients from harm,” said Katie Murphy, RN, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses. “These nurses, who we are referring to as “the St. Vincent 8,” are true heroes and represent the canaries in the dark mine shaft that is for-profit healthcare. We believe they have an ironclad case and hope the court acts quickly to provide the justice they so rightfully deserve.” 

The unlawful termination of the SVH nurses represents a brazen, however fruitless, attempt to punish and silence the St. Vincent nurses who have been engaged in an impassioned effort to alert those responsible agencies and officials of what they consider to be deplorable conditions in an effort to move Tenet to join them in providing a safe environment for patients and staff. 

Prior to filing the lawsuit, the nurses spent months documenting and reporting to management in real time through the filing of “Objections to Unsafe Staffing” reports, conditions they believed to be unsafe.  It was only after those pleas for help were ignored by hospital leaders that the nurses then exercised their obligation to advocate for the safety of their patients by filing a number of official complaints with state and federal regulatory agencies. Those agencies included the Department of Public Health Division of Healthcare Quality, the Joint Commission (which accredits acute care hospitals), the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Mass. Board of Registration in Nursing. 

The complaints also alleged an ongoing degradation of care, which were based on more than 600 official reports filed by nurses over the last six months.  As stated in the lawsuit filed today, “Within those complaints, allegations include unattended patients suffering injuries from falls, a pregnant woman in labor waiting more than five hours for a C-section, and patients lying in their own bodily waste for extended periods of time.”

In addition to filing reports, the lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs also communicated their concerns to administrators in texts, emails and personal meetings, warning them of the harm to patients and the need for improvements to ensure their safety. The complaint also relays text messages from a manager that instructed a scheduling employee to delete WhatsApp messages from nurses about unsafe staffing concerns.

For media who wish to view all the complaints, along with other information about these issues, which contain numerous examples of unsafe patient care conditions, visit this page.

The nurses’ whistleblower complaint calls for the immediate reinstatement of all the nurses with back pay and restoration of all benefit and seniority rights, payment of all legal fees associated with the case, and for any other relief the court deems to be appropriate.

“While we are outraged and disheartened by this assault on our professional integrity and our livelihoods, the nurses of St. Vincent Hospital stand strong with our heads held high knowing we are honoring our professional obligation to do whatever is necessary to protect the patients we have given our careers to serve,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the MNA local bargaining unit for the St. Vincent Hospital nurses.  “Ours is a righteous cause, not only for those involved in this case, but for all those nurses and caregivers working today under unsafe conditions.  To remain silent is to remain complicit, and we will not be silent when the lives of our patients are at stake.”

St. Vincent Nurses Cause of Action Follows Other High-Profile Cases in Recent Years Against Tenet

This cause of action filed today by the St. Vincent 8 for wrongful termination for whistleblowing is by no means unique for Tenet Healthcare as it follows other recent cases filed against the corporation.  This includes the award in February 2021 of $10.6 million to two cardiologists at Tenet-owned Detroit Medical Center after a federal judge upheld an arbitrators’ decision that the hospital and Tenet acted with malice in firing them as retaliation for reporting violations at the facility.  Four nurses at a Tenet facility in June of 2020 have also filed $25 million lawsuit against Tenet for alleged wrongful discharge, retaliation against whistleblowers, and intentional and/or reckless infliction of emotional distress, after the nurses reported preventable patient deaths in their emergency department due to understaffing during the height of the COVID crisis. 


Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 25,000 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.