NORTHAMPTON, Mass., Aug. 10, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Registered nurses at Cooley Dickinson Hospital represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association will join supporters for an informational picket on August 12 to bring attention to hospital owner Mass General Brigham (MGB)'s failure during the COVID-19 pandemic to properly protect and support staff and patients.
Informational Picket Info When: Wednesday, Aug. 12 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Where: On the sidewalk outside Cooley Dickinson Hospital at 30 Locust St. in Northampton How: Nurses, healthcare workers and community supporters will don masks and maintain responsible social distances as they picket. Media are welcome to attend and follow similar social distancing guidelines.
Fundamentally, hospital management is not learning from and listening to its nurses and
frontline support staff.
MGB – formerly Partners Healthcare – is not safely staffing hospital units while Massachusetts continues to battle COVID-19 and faces a recent uptick in cases and a potential second surge. Baystate Medical Center is experiencing an outbreak of cases, as has Weldon Rehabilitation at Mercy Medical Center.
Medical-surgical unit nurses are being assigned additional patients (as many as five or six, rather than the four that research shows reduces negative patient outcomes) even as patient acuity is higher because patients have waited to seek care due to the pandemic.
There are many new nurses at CDH who are not receiving adequate training. In some cases, newer nurses are training other new nurses.
Behavioral health patients, especially geriatric-psych patients, have been cared for on the med/surg units because there is nowhere to put them. This is not an appropriate care environment and CDH is not licensed for geriatric-psych beds. Med/surg rooms are not designed to accommodate this population's safety needs, and these patients may pose a risk of violence toward staff and other patients.
MGB is failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and continues to insist nurses and other frontline staff re-use and decontaminate masks against scientific standards.
Hospital management has not supported adequate screening of all visitors or making sure there is compliance around the number of visitors allowed to enter. There is also not proper oversight to ensure visitors are using masks and practicing social distancing.
MGB – the most profitable healthcare system in the state and recipient of at least $314 million in COVID-19 relief money – is proposing to freeze CDH nurse retirement contributions and pay.
The Boston Globe has reported that MGB executive Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, the president of Brigham and Women's Hospital, cashed out $8.5 million worth of Moderna stock options in May and July as MGB staff were facing pay and retirement freezes. Moderna, a biotechnology company, is one of the companies vying to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Nabel's connection to Moderna as the Brigham participates in a COVID-19 vaccine trial has raised conflict of interest questions, and MGB staff have expressed concerns to the Globe about supporting their families and planning for retirement while Dr. Nabel makes millions of dollars in compensation in addition to her more than $2 million salary.
"We are calling attention to the need for improved patient care and safety conditions at Cooley Dickinson Hospital as well as the lack of support and transparency the hospital has given nurses and other staff," said Candie St. Jean, CDH RN and chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee. "The disrespect by Mass General Brigham executives despite the dedication and hard work of all frontline staff during this pandemic is appalling and further undermines our broken healthcare system."
"Our nurses have been sacrificing for our patients, family and communities throughout this pandemic," said Michael Batura, CDH RN and member of the MNA Bargaining Committee. "Nurses have moved out of their homes or isolated from loved ones. Mass General Brigham has responded by ignoring our input and imposing risky visitor and inadequate cleaning policies. Our suggestions for heightened ultraviolet cleaning, visitor temperature checks and screening for hotspot travel have gone unheeded by executives who are not at the bedside or often even in our hospital. Management's approach is insulting to nurses and reduces the safety standards for everyone, especially patients who have complex needs requiring high levels of nursing care. Instead of undermining our union and weakening our ability to provide safe care, MGH should listen to our concerns and collaborate to keep us all safe."
"Nurses come to work at the hospital decorated with signs thanking 'frontline heroes,' while we struggle on our units to provide safe, high-quality care due to bare-bones staffing, heavy patient assignments, and minimal supports," said Danielle Smith, CDH RN and member of the MNA Bargaining Unit. "The hospital expects us to help recover revenue lost during the beginning of the pandemic by getting more work done using less overtime, while they managed to spend millions on a frivolous rebranding campaign. Sick people should not make anyone a profit, and our patients deserve more time and care."
CDH nurses will resume negotiations for a new contract with the hospital later this month after pausing negotiations for several months because of the pandemic. In June, MGB announced plans to freeze pay and benefits for thousands of its employees across the state. The MNA came out strongly against this plan and reiterated the rights of MNA nurses and healthcare professionals under federal labor law and their collective bargaining agreements.
MGB is the largest healthcare system and employer in New England. With annual revenues of $14 billion, MGB is consistently the most profitable healthcare system in Massachusetts. In the last fiscal year, MGB earned $485 million in income from operations – the system's most profitable year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, MGB has received at least $1 billion in accelerated Medicare payments and at least $314 million in grants from a federal relief program. The system reported having more than $230 million in cash on hand during the first quarter of this year. MGB also recently underwent a branding change, switching from Partners Healthcare, which the Boston Globe reported could cost $100 million.
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.