Massachusetts nurses to picket daily at Tenet hospital

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Nurses at Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare's St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., will picket outside the facility daily until a contract agreement is reached, according to the union that represents them.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents 740 registered nurses at St. Vincent, said a contingent of its members will picket daily, beginning Jan. 6, "to alert the public and to pressure their for-profit employer of the need to increase staffing levels to better protect their patients during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis." 

The demonstration, with daily picketing from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., comes amid contract negotiations between the union and hospital management.

The union said it seeks staffing improvements, as well as competitive pay and benefits. This includes the creation of COVID-19-specific units with no more than three patients assigned to a nurse at one time. The union also alleges St. Vincent is withholding appropriate personal protective equipment, forces nurses to reuse masks, and that more than 100 nurses have left the facility in the last nine months for other hospitals with better conditions, pay and benefits. 

The hospital disputes the assertions. 

"While it is true that 103 full-time and part-time nurses left SVH in 2020, they did so for a wide variety of reasons," the hospital said in a statement shared with Becker's Hospital Review. "In fact, many of them left due to retirement, moving from the area or leaving the workforce. SVH's 12 percent nurse turnover in 2020 puts the hospital in line with national healthcare turnover benchmarks."

Regarding claims about inadequate PPE, the hospital said it follows CDC guidelines for PPE use and conservation, and it has temporarily implemented strategies for PPE conservation, consistent with that guidance, to address continued availability of PPE and safe patient care. 

St. Vincent said it also has provided a wage proposal that is "significantly more generous than prior contracts," and in the last two weeks, the hospital proposed a bonus to help offset the cost of healthcare benefits for some nurses who regularly work overtime.

Negotiations are slated to resume Jan. 21 with a federal mediator. 

 

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