As Monday strike looms, Tenet hospital hires replacement nurses

Hospital Administration

Dive Brief:

  • Some 800 registered nurses at Tenet’s St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts are set to strike Monday following a breakdown in negotiations over a new contract they’ve been bargaining for since November 2019. The strike is open-ended, with no set duration, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
  • St. Vincent will remain open and made a $1.7 million payment to hire replacement nurses, with a final $3.7 million payment due Friday, according to a release from the hospital.
  • Staffing ratios are key, with the union lamenting its members have filed 110 unsafe staffing reports since Jan. 1. But the hospital’s CEO Carolyn Jackson argued the nurses are putting their own interests above the community ”over invalid complaints about quality and safety.”

Dive Insight:

In 2000, nurses at St. Vincent waged a 49-day strike over their first union contract.

It ended when both parties reached a deal brokered by former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., that resulted in provisions to limit mandatory overtime.

More than twenty years later, nurses at the hospital are still fighting for staffing provisions they say are needed to provide safe, quality care. They plan to rally outside the hospital starting Sunday evening, then every day from 6 a.m. to midnight until a settlement is reached, according to a release from MNA.

The nurses willingness to go on an open-ended strike “demonstrates how frustrated they are with the situation and how bad things are —they are really willing to take a stand no matter how long it takes to make sure that they have the ability to provide safe patient care,” Rebecca Givan, associate professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, said.

The employer showing how many millions of dollars it’s spending on replacement nurses to try to break the strike also demonstrates that it’s really not about the money, but about the power,” Givan said.

In addition to the unsafe staffing reports, the union cited an uptick in patient falls, more patients suffering from preventable bed sores and increased delays in treatment and medications, according to a release.

Inadequate staffing levels, excessive patient assignments and cuts to support staff are to blame, and over the last ten months, more than 100 nurses have left St. Vincent, the union said in a release.

The hospital made an offer Monday night that the union rejected, setting the stage for the looming work stoppage, according to a release from St. Vincent.

The hospital called its offer “the most generous wage package in more than 10 years, with total raises of up to 36 percent for some nurses, as well as increases in staffing guidelines, which are already considered among the best of all Massachusetts hospitals.”

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