Tufts Medical Center Prepares as MNA Offers No New Proposals, Stalls Negotiations

Mar 29, 2011, 15:43 ET from Tufts Medical Center

Medical Center announces provisions to ensure uninterrupted patient care

MNA continues to insist on $32 million staffing plan

BOSTON, March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tufts Medical Center negotiators were disappointed that Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) officials moved farther from resolution at yesterday's bargaining session, backpedaling on progress previously made. Tufts Medical Center has been told that the MNA/NNU is planning a strike vote for the week of April 4th.

"It is unfortunate that the MNA seems uninterested in working toward a fair settlement for its nurses, and instead appears to be working toward a strike at Tufts Medical Center," said Ellen Zane, President and CEO. "The mandatory staffing ratios demanded by MNA and its parent union National Nurses United are not a predicate to quality care—Tufts Medical Center's quality is beyond dispute—and the ratios' $32 million annual price tag is simply not sustainable for any hospital, and is completely out of step with the demands of health care reform."

Tufts Medical Center has made significant offers during the course of the negotiations. It has proposed a one-year extension of the current contract with a three-percent raise for all nurses – exactly the wage increase the MNA/NNU requested in its proposal. Tufts Medical Center also offered to maintain current health and pension benefits. The Medical Center offered concrete proposals to work with nurses and the MNA/NNU on staffing, overtime and temporary reassignments/floating over the course of the one-year extension, The MNA/NNU's only proposal to resolve staffing issues is to impose rigid mandatory ratios. These are not flexible to meet ever-changing patients' needs and are determined by union officials in a one-size-fits-all approach across the country.

MNA/NNU plan to boost health costs by $32 million annually unsustainable

Hospitals in Massachusetts and elsewhere have seen payments from public and private payers cut considerably: Tufts Medical Center had its Medicaid payments slashed by $18 million over the past two years. Public officials have demanded that private insurers hold the line on health care costs, and hospitals and other providers are being told they must learn to do more with less.

"Tufts Medical Center is remarkably innovative in the way it delivers care, and our quality indicators are excellent and improving," said Michael Wagner, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Tufts Medical Center. "It would be irresponsible to spend tens of millions of health care dollars on ratios that do not guarantee quality improvement."

Tufts MC forced to prepare

Tufts Medical Center will prepare, in the event the MNA/NNU chooses to strike. Tufts MC has signed an agreement with one of the nation's largest and most reputable temporary staffing firms to provide highly-skilled nurses to care for patients. The agreement calls for nurses who travel here for work receive no less than 60 hours of time. The Medical Center will also need to lower its census before a strike, and it will take time to return the census to normal. The Medical Center estimates a five-day strike will affect inpatient volume for at least 22 days.

"Nobody wins in a strike, and we hope it doesn't come to that, but we have a responsibility to our patients and the community to deliver safe, high-quality care regardless of the situation and we are prepared to do so. We will work with our nursing leadership, physicians, the replacement nurses and all members of the care team to ensure all patients receive any and all care they need," said Zane.

The two sides have agreed to meet again on April 5th and have a negotiation session scheduled on April 11th as well. The contract, which was scheduled to expire yesterday, has been extended without changes to April 11th.

SOURCE Tufts Medical Center