WESTFIELD, Mass., Jan. 9, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Baystate Noble Hospital (BNH) nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), will hold an informational picket and rally on Wednesday, Jan. 11 for the first time in 20 years to call attention to the hospital and owner Baystate Health's failure during ongoing contract negotiations to agree to improved nurse staffing levels that will ensure safe and effective patient care.
Informational Picket: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11 in front of the emergency department of Baystate Noble Hospital, at the intersection of Court and Mill streets in Westfield.
Rally: 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Park Square Green in downtown Westfield.
Attending: Press and the public welcome; the registered nurses of Baystate Noble Hospital, along with their family, friends and community supporters
Baystate Noble nurses entered contract negotiations nearly a year ago with serious concerns about patient safety. Nearly 94 percent of nurses at the hospital who were surveyed prior to negotiations said their unit was short staffed some or most of the time. In response, the nurses proposed improving nurse staffing throughout the hospital, and placing those improved staffing levels in their collective bargaining agreement. For 11 months, the hospital has failed to adequately address chronic nurse understaffing and has refused to commit to contract language that would protect patients.
"The hospital has changed a lot since I began working here 31 years ago," said Pam Fournier, RN, Bargaining Unit Co-Chair. "Patients are sicker than ever. Yet nurses have less time to spend with each patient. That means less time for treatment and less time to educate patients about their care. My fellow nurses and I are proud of our hospital and the patient care we provide. But we are also concerned about the quality of that care. Patient safety is extremely important to Baystate Noble nurses. We need enforceable contract language to ensure safe patient care."
Baystate is refusing to provide safe staffing for its patients despite enormous economic resources. In recent months, Baystate has pled poverty in public. The reality is quite different. Baystate Health ended 2014 and 2015 with a combined $121 million in profits, according to the state. Between 2010 and 2015, Baystate Medical Center alone made $480 million in profits.
These are not the annual results of a system in financial trouble. Baystate pulls in annual profits in the tens of millions, continues to fund special executive retirement plans and offshores millions of dollars in overseas accounts. Baystate has the means to provide safe staffing to its patients, and fair benefits and wages to the nurses who care for them.
In addition to improved nurse staffing levels, Baystate Noble nurses are seeking access to affordable, quality health insurance and a fair wage increase. The hospital has made proposals that undervalue and disrespect nurses, including increasing the cost of the nurses own health care through higher co-pays and deductibles and eliminating overtime pay for nurses who work up to an hour of overtime following their shift.
"We are at a critical juncture in negotiations," said Paul Dubin RN, Bargaining Unit Co-Chair. "We are chronically understaffed but the hospital refuses to work with nurses to solve the problem. Patients have the right to proper nursing care, including education and safety awareness. Without nurse staffing limits in our contract and without the hospital agreeing to properly value its nurses, we cannot recruit and retain the skilled nurses we need to provide safe and effective patient care."
The parties at BNH began negotiations on Feb. 10, 2016 and 17 sessions have been held to date. The contract had an expiration date of March 31, 2016. A federal mediator began participating in negotiations on Jan. 3, 2017.
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.
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SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association