Regional Council 2 News
Dallas-Based Tenet Healthcare Spending Over $22 million to Prolong St. Vincent Nurses Strike for Fourth Week to Avoid Staffing Improvements to End Patient Safety Crisis
City of Worcester confirms Tenet is spending $30,000 per day ($210,000/wk) for police details alone, rather than addressing patient safety proposals of the St. Vincent staff nurses; Proposals such as the creation of a pool of nurses to provide care to critically ill patients needing specialized care in the emergency department and on other units
“We find it disheartening and reckless that Tenet would spend millions to keep St. Vincent Hospital nurses out on the street to protect their profits while our patients continue to suffer and go without life-saving care and the dignity they deserve,”
Marlena Pellegrino, St. Vincent Hospital RN
“In all the articles I have read they [Tenet] never said they can’t afford to give you what you are asking for, not one article. So that means you got the money, you just choose not to use it, and that’s a problem,” Rev. Clyde Tally, pastor, Belmont AME Zion Church
WORCESTER, Mass. – As the 800 striking nurses of St. Vincent Hospital move into their fourth week of an open-ended strike against Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, the for-profit corporations will spend more than $22 million* to prolong the strike and the City of Worcester has confirmed that Tenet is spending more than $30,000 a day and $210,000 per week on police details alone.
Based on the funds used for police details alone, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), using a conservative analysis of a nurse’s salary and benefits, calculates that at the same cost, Tenet could easily have addressed key proposals by the nurses that drove the nurses to strike. This includes the nurses’ call for a cadre of critical care and rapid response nurses (similar to what is in place at nearby UMass Memorial Medical Center) to provide specialized care to critically ill patients boarding in the emergency department or on other units waiting for an ICU bed, or to assist in caring for patients experiencing a life- threatening downturn in their condition. The police details are but a small cost compared to the multimillions Tenet spends each week to prolong the strike, millions that should be spent improving staffing throughout the hospital to provide the safe, high quality care that patients deserve.
“While we appreciate the protection of the police on our strike line, the issue here is not with the police, but with Tenet’s decision to cause and prolong this strike, at the expense of our core concerns – patient safety,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the MNA. “We find it disheartening and reckless that Tenet would millions to keep St. Vincent Hospital nurses out on the street to protect their profits while our patients continue to suffer and go without life-saving care and the dignity they deserve.”
The strike by the St. Vincent Hospital began on March 8, after Tenet had refused to negotiate with the nurses over improvements the nurses are seeking to improve unsafe patient care conditions in the hospital. The decision followed earnest and painstaking efforts over the last two years by the nurses to convince Tenet to improve the patient care conditions at the facility, poor conditions that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Adding insult to injury, the same day nurses voted to authorize the strike, Tenet announced annual profits of more than $400 million.
The nurses’ strike and their stand for safer patient care has galvanized support from a variety of public officials, labor and community advocates, including the entire Worcester City Council, the Worcester state legislative delegation, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey and Congressman Jim McGovern and Attorney General Maura Healy who have all visited the nurses strike line and sent their own letter to Tenet’s CEO in Dallas urging Tenet to negotiate with the nurses to address the nurses concerns over needed staffing improvements to ensure safe care.
Last Wednesday Worcester Interfaith, a community coalition comprised of 21 faith-based organizations, held a candlelight vigil to support the nurses. “Worcester’s Faith Communities stand in solidarity with the St. Vincent Nurses, as they hold steadfast in seeking safety standards in staffing and for patient safety,“ said Isabel Gonzalez-Webster, Executive Director. “In the middle of a worldwide pandemic and widespread economic, housing, health and food insecurity, it is not the time for corporations to put profit over safe working conditions and patient safety. We must support our front-line workers who have put their lives at stake to support our most vulnerable residents.”
Prior to the closing benediction to the vigil, Reverend Clyde Talley, pastor at the Belmont AME Zion Church, perfectly summed up the immorality and intentionality behind Tenet’s decision to invest in a strike rather than the care of the community. “In all the articles I have read they [Tenet] never said they can’t afford to give you what you are asking for, not one article. So that means you got the money, you just choose not to use it, and that’s a problem,” Rev. Tally said. “We’re out here now because you are not being heard, and we as a community are out here with you to let you know you are not alone.”
As the issue of Tenet’s misplaced spending priorities are being raised, the local media, and staff working inside the hospital have shared disturbing reports of poor patient care being delivered by hundreds of inadequately trained strike replacement nurses who have been flown in from all over the country to break the nurses’ strike.
While nurses are walking outside the hospital carrying signs that read “on strike for safe patient care” Tenet Healthcare is operating the hospital with a cadre of replacement nurses who have never worked in the facility, at times using the physicians and other staff in the hospital to deliver care generally provided by the nurses. According to a number of accounts received by the MNA, the MNA believes that these strike replacements are providing substandard care. The reports show the nurses did not know how to operate key pieces of operating room equipment, have mislabeled labs, failed to respond to patients in a timely way (neglecting the needs of those patients) and failed to follow basic protocols designed to prevent serious errors in care.
For a more detailed review of the staffing crisis, efforts by nurses to convince Tenet to address the crisis, as well as proposals nurses are seeking to improve patient care, click here to view a previous press release on the matter.
*The estimate of $22 million is based on Tenet’s public disclosure at the outset of the strike that the cost of replacement nurses was $5.4 million for the first week multiplied by the four weeks of the strike, and also including the city’s confirmed weekly cost for police details of $210,000 multiplied by four weeks. This figure does not include the hospital’s cost for its own expanded internal security force, the installation of special high tech camera systems outside the hospital entrances, and the fleet of buses and vans the hospital is using to transport the strike replacement nurses to and from the facility throughout the day every day of the strike. The MNA last week sent a letter to St. Vincent Hospital’s attorney requesting a copy of the contracts for the strike replacement nurses so that the nurses, and the public have a full picture of the resources Tenet is using to prolong this strike. For a copy of this letter, see the “For the Press” section at www.massnurses.org/StVincentNurses.
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