Click below to read the SVH RN state and federal complaints:
- The Joint Commission, Jan. 26, 2024
- The Joint Commission, Dec. 14, 2023
- The Joint Commission, June 23, 2023
- The MA DPH Division of Health Care Facility Licensure and Certification, Jan. 26, 2024
- The MA DPH Division of Health Care Facility Licensure and Certification, Dec. 15, 2023
- The U.S Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Jan. 26, 2024
- The U.S Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Dec. 15, 2023
St. Vincent Nurses to Deliver Petition to the Hospital’s CEO and CNO Calling for Immediate Action to Address “An Ongoing Patient Safety Crisis”
Delivery follows the nurses filing of complaints with state and federal agencies citing dangerous conditions and serious deficiencies in care that jeopardize the safety of patients admitted to the hospital on a daily basis
When: Wednesday, February 14 at 10:30 a.m.
Where: A Delegation of nurses will gather outside the Summer St. entrance to the Worcester-based hospital to meet with the media and then will head into the facility to make the delivery
The event will also be livestreamed on the MNA Facebook page: www.facebook.com/massnurses.
WORCESTER, MA – In response to what nurses at St. Vincent Hospital (SVH) characterize as an “ongoing patients safety crisis” at the Worcester-based facility, a delegation of nurses on Wednesday will deliver a petition signed by more than 80 percent of nurses to SVH CEO Carolyn Jackson and recently installed Chief Nursing Officer Denise Kvapil to “take immediate steps to protect our patients and our nurses…from dangerous conditions and a punitive management culture.” The delegation will gather outside the Summer St. entrance to the hospital at 10:30 a.m. to meet with members of the media who wish to learn more about this issue, and members of the media are invited to accompany the nurses as they move inside the facility to deliver the petitions. The event will also be livestreamed on the Massachusetts Nurses Association Facebook page:www.facebook.com/massnurses.
The petition delivery follows a widely publicized press conference the nurses held on Jan. 31st, where they announced their filing of a number of official complaints with the Department of Public Health Division of Healthcare Quality, Joint Commission (which accredits acute care hospitals), the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Mass. Board of Registration in Nursing, detailing a serious and ongoing degradation of care, which were based on more than 600 official reports filed by nurses over the last six months. Those reports highlight deficiencies in staffing, hospital policies, allocation of technology, and a deliberately punitive management culture that is resulting in dangerous delays in the administration of needed medications and treatments, preventable patient falls and other complications, including preventable patient deaths. Reporters who wish to receive copies of the complaints can email David Schildmeier at firstname.lastname@example.org. The full press conference regarding the complaints was livestreamed on the MNA Facebook page and can be viewed here.
Since the nurses issued the complaints against the hospital and after holding a press conference on Jan. 31st to alert the public about the unsafe conditions, no effort has been made by the administration to meet with the nurses or address any of their concerns and in fact, since those events, nurses have filed an additional 50 official reports of conditions that jeopardized the health and safety of their patients, more than three reports each day.
“With this petition, we are sending a powerful message to our administration that the concerns we have raised through our complaints and to the general public last month are supported and endorsed by nearly every nurse working at this hospital, and that we are united in our effort to hold them accountable for the safety and dignity of our patients and our nurses, who have sacrificed so much to provide care under the truly horrendous conditions they have created,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).
The language of the nurses’ petition makes clear the position of the nurses and why they are making this stand for their patients and themselves.”
We the undersigned registered nurses of St Vincent Hospital can no longer remain silent about the dangerous conditions in our hospital. Our administration under the direction of our CEO Carolyn Jackson and Chief Nursing Officer Denise Kvapil, have created alternate staffing grids that are forcing nurses on nearly every unit to accept unsafe patient assignments in blatant violation of our union contract. These conditions, in conjunction with a punitive management culture, not only endanger the lives of our patients, but result in nurses leaving the hospital battered and demoralized, and too many looking to leave St. Vincent for safer practice environments.
The impact of Tenet’s practices and behavior over the last two years has been devastating by design. A hospital that once had more than 800 nurses now is staffed with around 500, with more than 250 pending vacancies. While nurses struggle every day to keep their patients safe, Tenet management refuses to engage in any meaningful effort to recruit and retain needed nursing staff. Nurses who are recruited to the facility, particularly newly graduated nurses, end up leaving their positions, many before they even finish their orientation.
The impact on patients is even more alarming, as described by Pellegrino during the recent press conference, stating “on too many days on too many shifts, too many of our patients are left unattended and unmonitored, they are not receiving their medications on time, or at all, they are pushing call buttons writhing in pain, waiting for a nurse who wants to respond and be at their side, but can’t because they are taking care of too many other patients, or because no nurse has been assigned to watch over them. Too many patients are left with untreated pain, too many patients are left to lie for hours soiled by their own urine or feces because nurses can’t get to them as required. Too many patients lie alone or sit in chairs or on stretchers in our overcrowded and overwhelmed emergency department waiting for the care and attention they need. Too many patients who are terrified about their situation who need the comfort and education that we nurses provide to help them understand their condition are failing to get that precious time and human connection with their nurse. Far too many patients are falling, too many are placed at risk for preventable bedsores and infections and, tragically some are dying from want of care from one of our nurses.”
To address the crisis the petition calls on hospitals leaders to take some immediate steps including:
- “We demand St. Vincent administration and CNO Kvapil comply with our contractually guaranteed staffing levels on all units and to treat us with the professional respect we deserve.” The staffing levels referred to in the petition are those included in the contract negotiated with Tenet Healthcare to improve patient care at the hospital and to end the nurses’ historic 10-month strike in 2021-22.
- We demand they hire appropriate travelers, negotiate a robust bonus program and work with our union on other measures to ensure we can recruit and retain staff needed to provide safe patient care. The nurses point out that Tenet spent more than $5 million a week during the nurses strike to recruit more than 200 travel nurses to break the strike and avoid safer staffing levels, and now that it is settled, the hospital is refusing to hire a significant number of travel nurses to ensure appropriate patient care — at a time when Tenet Healthcare turned a profit of more than $854 million for the third quarter of 2023, a profit margin of 17 percent.
Management Responds to Nurses Safety Concerns with Campaign of Retaliation
In the wake of this crisis, the nurses at SVH and the MNA have been attempting to establish a positive working relationship with the administration since the end of the strike, and at every turn those efforts have been rebuffed. The MNA represents nurses in more than 70 percent of the state’s acute care hospitals and at every other MNA-represented hospital, the nurses’ local union leadership hold regular, often monthly, “labor/management” meetings, where the parties meet to address issues of concern to each side, with the hope of engaging in a good faith effort to resolve those issues. The only exception is St. Vincent Hospital, where the administration in recent years has refused all requests for such a meeting, with the last one held in June of 2022.
In fact, prior to and after the press conference last month the only response by management has been a concerted campaign of recrimination, daily violations of the nurses’ union rights and of late, unlawful and unwarranted retaliation against the nurses who had the audacity to advocate for their patients and their rights.
“The only time we meet with management now is with a Tenet attorney in response to our filing of grievances for their violation of our contract and union rights and most recently, so they can engage in an unlawful discipline or termination of our nurses,” said Dominique Muldoon, RN, Co-Chair of the nurses local bargaining who is currently one the nurses who was put out of work on an unpaid suspension for her efforts to question dangerous conditions on her unit.
As to the hiring of Kvapil and her impact, Muldoon reports that she and another member of the union have had only one, brief 20-minute meeting, which they initiated, where the new CNO refused to engage in any meaningful discussion of the concerns raised by the nurses at the time.
Pellegrino reports sending at least three impassioned texts about dangerous conditions she and other nurses were experiencing on specific shifts directly to Kvapil with a request for a meeting with the union to resolve the situation. In a text on Dec. 31, 2023, Pellegrino wrote to Kvapil, “In over 37 years as an SVH RN I have never seen conditions as abysmal and dangerous for patients and staff. I came into work tonight on 33 South, 7 p. – 7 a. with 3 RNs and 1 PCA for 18 patients, with three patients on 1:1s. All patients care delayed…lab monitoring, MD orders, pain medications and reassessment unable to be carried out per policy and standard of care…patients call lights unable to be answered in a timely manner…patients waiting for incontinent care, hygiene, turn and repositioning for extended periods of time due lack of appropriate staff…hourly rounding, fall precautions, and infectious disease protocols unable to be maintained due to lack of staff…..unable to provide patients and families the emotional support and education they need due to RNs being spread too thin…multiple confused patients requiring total assist with ADLs (activities of daily living) unable to get the care they deserve… unable to help with meals, hydration, linen changes, mouth care, catheter care, dressing changes…unable to complete our documentation in medical record in a timely manner…we are running to other units for supplies we should have on stocked, had to call Building Services multiple times to get overflowing needle boxes replaced… floors in patient rooms dirty and sticky…and this doesn’t even cover all of it,” she wrote.
Pellegrino concluded with a plea for collaboration, “More staff are looking for jobs elsewhere and resigning. Patients and staff are suffering physically and emotionally. What is Tenet’s end game? We need to work collaboratively if there is ever a chance to restore SVH to the honorable institution it once was. An immediate response and remedy from Nursing and Hospital Leadership is essential. Patients’ lives depend on it.”
Kvapil refused to respond to this or Pellegrino’s other texts and has made no effort to improve relations with the nurses or address any of the unsafe conditions that nurses have reported.
Since the strike ended, the nurses have filed more than 100 grievances against the employer for violation of the contract, and dozens of pending charges for unfair labor practices. Last month, after the nurses filed their complaint with the Board of Registration in Nursing and other agencies, and shortly after the BORN began its investigation of the complaint, three nurses in the emergency department involved in the complaint were terminated, and six nurses on other units in the hospital, including Muldoon were suspended without pay for their efforts to object to unsafe patient assignments.
The MNA has responded to the firing and discipline of nurses with a charge of unfair labor practice against Tenet and is seeking injunctive relief to reverse the terminations and suspensions. The MNA is also preparing an official complaint under the state’s Healthcare Whistleblower law, which will be filed with Superior Court against the retaliatory suspensions and terminations.
Tenet’s Record of Alleged Corporate Malfeasance is Long and Well Documented
Tenet’s propensity for questionable and unlawful behavior is well documented, as the corporation has been subject to fines and other judgements from courts and governmental agencies totaling more than $1.8 billion over the last 20 years alone. A listing of those decisions can be found here. 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. And in February of 2020, Tenet and one of its California hospitals agreed to pay $1.41 million to settle false claims allegations brought by the federal government for knowingly charging Medicare for implanting unnecessary cardiac monitors into patients.
“None of these issues are acceptable on any level and any administrator responsible for these conditions must be held accountable,” said Muldoon, “Our nurses have always taken such pride at being a St. Vincent nurse and we are appalled to see what this administration is doing to our community hospital and the patients we serve every day.”
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.