As Contract Talks Stall Over RN Staffing and Patient Care Concerns
WORCESTER, Mass., April 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The registered nurses of St. Vincent Hospital will hold a one-day strike for patient safety on Friday, May 6, 2011, as contract talks continue to stall over hospital management's refusal to improve unsafe patient care conditions at the hospital.
The nurses issued the formal 10-day strike notice today, which is required by federal labor law, to Vanguard Health Care management, the for-profit owner of the hospital. The one-day strike will begin at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, May 6 (National Nurses Day), and end on Saturday, May 7 at 6:45 a.m.
The 740 St. Vincent nurses are working under the worst RN staffing levels in the city. In the last 16 months nurses have filed more than 1,000 official reports of unsafe conditions at the facility (an average of more than two a day). To address the crisis, the nurses are seeking contract language to guarantee safer staffing levels in the hospital.
"The nurses of St. Vincent Hospital cannot allow our patients to suffer day in and day out simply because their nurse has too many patients to care for at one time," said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, a nurse at the hospital and chair of the nurses' local bargaining unit. "No nurse wants to strike, but we are prepared to do so if Vanguard continues to refuse to make improvements in staffing levels – improvements that are needed to prevent a continued deterioration in the quality and safety of care at this hospital."
At the negotiating session held today, talks ended with the hospital making what it called "its last, best and final" offer, which failed to include the staffing improvements nurses need to provide safe patient care. Vanguard management's latest proposal would add more nurses to a few floors, while also calling for the closure of nine beds in the intensive care unit, increased patient assignments for nurses on a floor caring for patients recovering from open-heart surgery and elimination of a team of patient support nurses who assist other nurses with complex cases. The hospital's plan may actually make the conditions for nurses and patients more dangerous.
The nurses' concerns about the staffing conditions at the hospital are supported by a significant body of research demonstrating the link between poor staffing and a variety of poor patient outcomes and an increase in preventable patient deaths in the nation's hospitals. In fact, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine published last month shows that when hospital floors or units are understaffed, and where there is a high turnover of patients on a unit each day (as is the case on every unit at St. Vincent Hospital), the risk of patient death increases significantly.
Nurses are outraged that their patients are forced to suffer every day while Vanguard, the multi-billion dollar for profit owner of the hospital, has reaped more than $50 million in profits over the last two years at St. Vincent Hospital alone, and just recently spent more than a billion dollars to purchase hospitals in other parts of the country. "Vanguard can well afford to provide the safe care the patients in this community deserve," Pellegrino said.
Pellegrino added, "It is our sincere hope that Vanguard will take the opportunity over the coming days to engage in a good faith negotiation to avert the need for a strike. Should they decide otherwise, we are prepared to make a stand for the safety of our patients."
The nurses began negotiating a new contract with Vanguard management in December of 2009 and a total of 39 negotiating sessions have been held to date. The current contract expired on Dec. 31, 2009, and has been extended by mutual agreement until May 4, 2011, which is the last scheduled session before the strike. The decision to issue a strike notice was authorized by an overwhelming vote of the St. Vincent membership held on April 8.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and 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. The MNA is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses union in the United States with more than 150,000 members from coast to coast.
SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association