Nurses' strike at Tenet Massachusetts hospital moves into 5th week: 5 updates

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Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and the union representing 800 nurses at the facility continue to spar over staffing as a strike at the facility enters its fifth week, the Telegram & Gazette reported April 3.

Saint Vincent nurses began their strike March 8, and about 700 remain on the picket line.

Five updates related to the strike:

1. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has sought a 4-1 patient-to-nurse ratio on medical/surgical floors and telemetry units, in most cases, with a resource nurse to help as needed; more emergency department staffing; and more ancillary support in each unit like a secretary, according to the Telegram & Gazette. The union contends staffing is not adequate and that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated conditions at the hospital.

2. The hospital, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, argues the union's staffing demands are unreasonable. The hospital said it has offered expanding a 4-1 patient-to-nurse ratio to three of eight medical/surgical floors, as well as a generous wage and benefit proposal, adding a critical care float nurse who would always be available, and COVID-19 staffing guidelines that would ensure a nurse on a med-surg floor does not have more than four COVID-19 patients at a given time, according to the Telegram & Gazette.

3. In addition to staffing requests, the union has criticized the hospital's spending for replacement nurses during the strike. The Massachusetts Nurses Association told the Boston Business Journal that Saint Vincent contracted with staffing company U.S. Nursing to hire hundreds of replacement nurses. The union cites emails from U.S. Nursing, obtained by the Massachusetts Nurses Association and shared with the Boston Business Journal, and said replacement staff is working for double the payment of typical salaried staff, and nearly double the number of hours. Specifically, the union contends replacement staff were offered between $95 and $110 an hour and guaranteed 60 hours of work the first week, followed by 48 hours in subsequent weeks.

4. The hospital declined to provide any financials on the strike cost other than the first news release Saint Vincent published near the beginning of the strike. The hospital's first payment for replacement nurses was $1.7 million, and the second payment on March 5 was $3.7 million. It's unclear what additional amounts of money have been spent since on replacement nurses, security measures and other strike-related costs. However, the hospital said the union's information is inaccurate.

5. Nurses on the picket line celebrated an Easter fun day April 4, which included the Easter Bunny and nurses and their children marching from strike headquarters to the picket line, according to the Telegram & Gazette. During the strike, state Rep. Tami Gouveia, PhD, D-Acton, and Jordan Berg Powers, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Mass Alliance, are among those who have shown support for nurses.

Read more about the strike here.


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