Physicians defend Saint Vincent CEO facing backlash amid nurses strike

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Physicians at Worcester, Mass.-based Saint Vincent Hospital are expressing their support for the hospital and its CEO, Carolyn Jackson, after two Massachusetts legislators recently called on Ms. Jackson to step aside from bargaining in a monthslong labor dispute.

In an Oct. 1 letter to the Worcester community, the physicians cited Ms. Jackson's leadership abilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We have gotten to know Ms. Jackson personally over the last two and a half years, and we find her to be a person of the highest moral standards who has made her home in our community and dedicated herself to providing quality healthcare to Central Massachusetts," the physicians wrote. "Our colleagues and we are deeply saddened at the continuous personal attacks directed at her by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and now by a few local elected officials who are misinformed on the facts of what is really prolonging this strike. This inflammatory rhetoric is misplaced and completely unproductive in achieving all parties' shared goal — bringing the strike to a close."

The physicians also called for an end to the nurses strike that has lasted more than 200 days and said Ms. Jackson has had to make difficult decisions to keep the hospital running during the strike, including reducing services and hiring permanent replacement nurses at the hospital, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare.  

"As doctors who work beside them, we are very confident in their ability to provide care and in Ms. Jackson’s ability to lead Saint Vincent Hospital to the service and quality that we have continued to maintain despite a crushing pandemic and a prolonged nursing strike," the physicians' letter stated.

The letter comes after Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty asked the CEO of Tenet to visit from Texas and negotiate an end to the nurses strike. Massachusetts House members David H.A. LeBoeuf and Mary Keefe, in a statement issued Sept. 28, also called on Ms. Jackson to step aside from bargaining, saying the decisions under Ms. Jackson's leadership have put the community at risk during the pandemic. Additionally, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has urged the Massachusetts Nurses Association and hospital management to return to the bargaining table.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, in a statement issued Oct. 1, placed blame on Ms. Jackson and hospital management for prolonging the strike. The union, which represents Saint Vincent nurses, said local nurses and leaders representing nurses at hospitals throughout the Central Massachusetts region share their position. 

"Nurses working in hospitals throughout the Central Massachusetts region want the public to know that the entire nursing community stands behind Saint Vincent hospital nurses and their strike for safer patient care, and that they, like a growing number of public officials, hold Tenet Healthcare solely accountable for the length of the strike and for Tenet's callous decision to close beds and services, which is having a devastating impact on the region's ability to respond to the most recent surge in the pandemic caused by the delta variant," the union said.   

The strike began March 8. The primary issue the parties have yet to agree on is the nurses' demand that they return to work in their previous roles

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