As Management Continues to Refuse to Improve Dangerous Staffing & Working Conditions
BOSTON, April 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Tufts Medical Center registered nurses' negotiating committee tonight issued an official notice of their intent to hold a one-day strike to protest dangerous patient care conditions on Friday, May 6, 2011. The strike will be the first nurses' strike at a Boston hospital in more than 25 years.
The nurses issued the formal 10-day strike notice, which is required by federal labor law, to management at the end of a negotiating session held today as hospital management continues to refuse to agree to desperately needed improvements to RN staffing levels that will ensure patients receive appropriate nursing care. The one-day strike will begin at 6 a.m. on Friday, May 6 (National Nurses Day), and will end on Saturday, May 7 at 7:00 a.m.
"We are very disappointed and angered by our administration's failure to engage in a real negotiation to avoid a strike," said Barbara Tiller, RN, chair of the nurses' local bargaining unit. "Management continues to turn a deaf ear to the concerns of nurses and a blind eye to the suffering of our patients. While none of us wants to strike, we are ready and willing to do so in defense of our patients and the future of nursing at Tufts Medical Center."
The nurses have serious concerns about recent changes in RN staffing levels and other changes in how they deliver care that has resulted in nurses being forced to care for more patients at one time on nearly every unit. To compensate for chronic understaffing, TMC is using mandatory overtime, and is forcing nurses to "float" from one area of the hospital to another where they might not be competent to provide appropriate care.
"Those changes transformed this hospital from being one of the best staffed hospitals in Boston to the worst staffed hospital in the city," Tiller explained. "As a result, our nurses spend less time with patients than nurses at other hospitals in the city. No other institution in the city is operating ICUs, including neonatal intensive care units, where their nurses are expected to care for three patients, nor are they expecting their medical surgical nurses to carry assignments of up to seven patients on a regular basis."
Tiller added that staffing changes have caused a dramatic deterioration in both the quality of care nurses are delivering and, in some cases, has resulted in serious lapses in care. In the past 15 months alone, nurses have filed more than 600 reports of incidents that jeopardized patient care.
The MNA points to a significant body of research demonstrating the link between poor staffing and the use of forced overtime to a variety of poor patient outcomes and an increase in preventable patient deaths in the nation's hospitals.
The 1,100 RNs at TMC, who are currently in negotiations for a new contract, are seeking contractually guaranteed, safe staffing levels. At Tufts, management has not only increased the work load of nurses, but they have also refused to adjust staffing based on the acuity of patients (acuity is a term referring to the patient's level of illness). In addition to calling for improved staffing levels, the nurses are also seeking a provision that would create a process to measure the acuity of patients on each unit and each shift, so that staffing could be further adjusted to meet the actual needs of patients.
The nurses are also calling for prohibitions against forced overtime and the inappropriate floating of nurses — all of which are needed to ensure that patients at Tufts Medical Center receive the safe care they deserve.
The nurses began negotiating a new contract with Tufts Medical Center management in September of 2010 and a total of 16 negotiating sessions have been held to date. The current contract expired on Dec. 31, 2010, and it has been extended by agreement of both parties through April 25. On April 14, more than 70 percent of the nurses voted to authorize a strike.
While the nurses are planning a one-day strike for patient safety, the hospital is threatening to lock the nurses out for an additional four-five days, spending more than $1 million a day to pay hundreds of replacement nurses between $70 – 90 per hour, plus travel, room and board all to avoid being held accountable for providing a safe level of nursing care.
The nurses are hopeful that Tufts management will use the time prior to the strike to engage in a good faith effort to reach a settlement for the benefit of the nurses and patients.
"We sincerely hope the hospital will finally come to the table determined to resolve these issues," Tiller explained. "For our part, we are determined to do whatever it takes to protect our patients because they are the ones who have the most to lose if conditions don't improve. For our patients, this is truly a matter of life and death."
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