HAVERHILL, Mass., Oct. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Steward Health Care refused to agree to contract language proposed by the registered nurses at Steward Holy Family Hospital at Merrimack Valley (HFHMV) that would ensure safe care for ICU patients and safeguard nurses from unwarranted discipline when they follow the law.
The HFHMV nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), are negotiating a new contract with Steward and are outraged by the corporation's refusal to agree to contract language obligating Steward to adhere to an important state law that sets safe limits on nurses' ICU patient assignments to ensure the most critically ill patients receive appropriate care. Adding insult to injury, Steward has also refused additional language that would prohibit management from disciplining nurses who follow the law, which nurses are obligated to do under their nursing license.
Beginning in September 2014, there has been a Massachusetts law requiring safe limits for intensive care unit (ICU) patients and nurses in all acute hospitals. Under the law, a staff nurse in the ICU may only be assigned one patient at a time or a second patient only if the nurses on the unit have assessed that it is safe for both patients to be assigned to one RN. Under no circumstances can a nurse be assigned a third patient. The law is key to protecting patients in our state's ICUs as these patients are very ill and in need of constant care and attention. Studies show that when ICU nurses have more than one or two patients, the risk of injury or death for these patients increases significantly.
Under the law governing nursing practice in Massachusetts, the registered nurses' first obligation is to the safety of their patient, and they are also required to follow all applicable state and federal laws.
The nurses at HFHMV have proposed new contract language that would obligate the hospital to adhere to the law, as well as provide nurses who follow the law with protection from discipline for following the same law.
The nurses' most recent proposal which management refused to agree to is this: "No nurse will be disciplined or otherwise adversely impacted for advocating for the enforcement of the state ICU law, M.G.L. Chapter 111, Section 231."
"It's concerning that Steward refuses to acknowledge the ICU law in our contract. This hard fought for law was made to protect the sickest and most vulnerable patients who require intense, specialized nursing care. We demand the law be included in our contract. The fact that Steward does not want it is alarming," said Jane Emery, an RN in the hospital's Emergency Department and co-chair of the MNA local bargaining unit for HFHMV.
The MNA is currently working with the Department of Public Health and the state Attorney General's office to seek aide in enforcement of the ICU staffing law. Where hospitals are refusing to comply with the law, the MNA is attempting to include union contract language like that proposed at the HFHMV negotiations.
This latest contract dispute at HFHMV follows months of contentious negotiations where the nurses were forced to file two unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the facility for bargaining in bad faith.
The nurses' previous contract with the hospital expired on March 31, 2016, but was extended. The MNA began its efforts to work with Steward to begin negotiations for a successor agreement, in December 2015, yet Steward refused to provide necessary information requested by the MNA to begin fruitful talks. To date 21 negotiating sessions have been held with the next session scheduled for October 17.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest 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.
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/steward-health-care-at-holy-family-hospital-at-merrimack-valley-refuses-to-agree-to-contract-language-obligating-steward-to-follow-state-law-ensuring-safe-patient-care-for-critically-ill-patients-300343789.html
SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association