Regional Council 2 News
St. Vincent Nurses and Tenet Management Resume Negotiations on Monday, April 26 With Tenet Failing to Address Any of the Staffing Concerns Raised by the Nurses
The Strike Continues, While Efforts Continue to Find a Resolution
WORCESTER, Mass. – The nurses of St. Vincent Hospital and Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare held the first round of negotiations since the nurses launched their strike on March 8 for a new contract that the nurses believe must include needed staffing improvements to ensure safer care for all the patients at the facility to end the strike. Unfortunately, Tenet came to the table without addressing the nurses call for safer staffing standards that the nurses had raised prior to the strike, and which had been communicated to the mediator on Friday when the negotiations were scheduled.
The only change to Tenet’s pre-strike proposal was to call for the creation of a “committee” to review the current insufficient staffing levels every quarter, with no commitment to actually improve conditions to ensure safer patient care as proposed by the nurses prior to the strike at the last negotiating session on March 3.
After the session the nurses reviewed the hospital’s proposal with the membership via zoom and the members voiced strong opposition to what was offered. The nurses responded that they have no interest in another committee. They need actual, safe and enforceable limits on nurses’ patient assignments on the medical surgical floors, the addition of resource nurses and other staff on a variety of units to provide the care that reflects the level of illness of today’s hospitalized patients.
The strike will continue. Moving forward the union will be in contact with the mediator to see if they can find a path forward.
The strike 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.
The nurses’ strike and their stand for safer patient care has galvanized support from a variety of public officials, labor, faith-based organizations and community advocates, including the entire Worcester City Council, the Worcester state legislative delegation, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey Congressman Jim McGovern and Attorney General Maura Healy who have all visited the nurses strike line. Senators Warren, Markey and Congressman McGovern 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.
On Tuesday, April 27, Congresswoman Lori Trahan will be visiting the nurses strike line at 11:45 a.m. to voice support for the nurses, and on Wednesday, April 28, Worcester Interfaith, and its coalition of 21 faith-based organizations will be holding their third candlelight vigil to support the nurses at 7 p.m.
As 800 nurses enter their eighth week on strike, Tenet recently reported more than $97 million in profits and revenues in excess of $4.7 billion for the first quarter of the year, following the posting of $400 million in profits for 2020. To date, Tenet is projected to have invested more than $45 million* to prolong the St. Vincent nurses’ strike – all to avoid providing the safer patient care conditions the nurses are seeking.
In the last year alone, nurses have filed more than 600 official “unsafe staffing” reports (more than 110 such reports have been filed since January 1, 2021) in which nurses informed management in real time that patient care conditions jeopardized the safety of their patients. The nurses also report their patients in Worcester have experienced an increase in patient falls, an increase in patients suffering from preventable bed sores, potentially dangerous delays in patients receiving needed medications and other treatments – all due to lack of appropriate staffing, excessive patient assignments, and cuts to valuable support staff.
Staffing Improvements Sought by the Nurses
As evidenced by its own report of massive profits, Tenet can well afford the additional positions necessary to implement the MNA staffing proposal that could end this strike. The money being spent to prolong the strike could easily address the proposed staffing improvements the nurses are seeking, which are staffing standards on a par with other hospitals in Worcester and across the state, including:
- Improvements to the current staffing guidelines to ensure all nurses have safe patient assignments and support staff to ensure safe patient care. Throughout the hospital Tenet has forced nurses to consistently care for too many patients while it has cut essential support staff positions. The nurses’ staffing proposal calls for improved limits on the number of patients nurses are assigned on many units, including a resource nurse (to coordinate care on the unit and provide support with complex cases) and a commitment to provide support staff positions across all units. A critical aspect of the staffing proposal is a safer patient assignment on the medical surgical floors, which is consistent with the standard of care provided at UMass Memorial Medical Center and a number of other hospitals in the state.
- Creation of a pool of nurses who are experts in caring for critically ill patients, which is essential to support nurses in the emergency department who in addition to taking care of five or six patients, are also expected to care for patients in need of ICU level care, who are waiting for a bed to open in the ICU. ICU and trauma patients must have a nurse dedicated to no more than one or two patients, which is the safe standard of care for these patients.
- The addition of what are called “STAT and Rapid Response” nurses, which are nurses who would be available to respond to urgent and critical situations when a patient is suffering a code or other serious decline in their condition on the medical/surgical floors. When needed these nurses assist in stabilizing and caring for the patient until they can be transferred to the ICU. They are especially important to support newly graduated nurses, who most often work on the off shift where there are often fewer experienced nurses working. Again, UMass Memorial Medical Center provides this level of support to its nurses.
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.
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.