Nashoba Valley Medical nurses claim work conditions put patients in danger: 7 things to know

Nurses at Ayer, Mass.-based Nashoba Valley Medical Center allege poor working conditions at the hospital have a negative impact on patient safety, according to The Sun.

Here are seven things to know about the allegations and the hospital's response.

1. The nurses made the allegations Monday night during a public hearing of the Massachusetts Workers' Rights Board.

2. Specifically, the nurses allege below-average wages and above-average staff turnover are forcing NVMC nurses to work longer hours, according to the report. The nurses cite information from the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which claims a 40 percent pay differential compared to other Massachusetts hospitals, not including those in Boston. MNA representative Dana Simon said these wages have contributed to a 26 percent turnover rate between August 2014 and August 2015, according to The Sun.

3. In response to the allegations, the hospital's owner, Boston-based Steward Health Care, provided Becker's Hospital Review with the following statement:

"While Steward has been working hard to achieve an equitable agreement with MNA at Nashoba Valley Medical Center, MNA has been distorting facts and spreading misinformation as part of its negotiation tactics. We value our nurses and the work of all of their colleagues, including our 1199SEIU union members and non-represented staff. It is important that we find a positive resolution that is fair and equitable to our nurses. However, a final agreement must strike a balance that helps the hospital remain financially viable, offers staff nurses predictable wages and benefits, but also adheres to the mandates of Chapter 224, Massachusetts landmark cost containment law."

4. The nurses' allegations come as Steward has been in active negotiations with the MNA at NVMC since the winter of last year. During this period of time, Steward has successfully settled collective bargaining agreements with four other MNA represented hospitals and a contract with the 1199SEIU at NVMC, officials said.

5. During negotiations, Steward said it offered the MNA an economic package that includes wage increases averaging more than 24 percent for each regular-staff registered nurse, and base compensation up to $50 per hour, which equates to more than $100,000 per year, per nurse, among other benefits.

6. As far as recruiting new registered nurses, Steward said the nurses' allegations are also inaccurate. In the last year, NVMC has hired 14 full-time and part-time RNs. It also recruited 10 new per diem staff members and the current open positions represent less than five full-time equivalents. "Several employees who have left their positions at NVMC have transferred into other positions within the hospital and within the Steward system, or elected to remain working as per diem, demonstrating that working conditions and pay rates are not the driving factor behind recent job postings," Steward said. "We also note that the majority of nurses who have left NVMC in the most recent year have accepted jobs out of state, out of the area, or at non-MNA hospitals in Massachusetts." 

7. According to the report, a federal mediator has stepped in to help resolve the dispute.


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