Tenet hospital nurses who filed 600+ safety complaints to petition CNO, CEO

Nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., plan to deliver a petition to the hospital's CEO and chief nursing officer on Feb. 14 calling on them to address what they say is an "ongoing patient safety crisis" at the facility.

The delivery of the petition, signed by more than 80% of nurses, according to a union news release shared with Becker's, follows the Massachusetts Nurses Association's announcement in late January of their filing of official complaints with The Joint Commission, CMS, the state Department of Public Health's licensure and certification division, and the state Board of Registration in Nursing.

The complaints, detailing "a serious and ongoing degradation of care," were based on more than 600 complaints regarding staffing levels and patient safety since July, according to the union. Those reports allege the hospital administration is in "blatant violation" of a contract that ended the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history. They specifically highlight what the MNA says are deficiencies in staffing, hospital policies, allocation of technology, and "a deliberately punitive management culture" that is jeopardizing patient care.

Since the nurses issued the complaints against Saint Vincent, which is part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, and after holding a press conference in late January, hospital management has not addressed their concerns, and an additional 50 official reports have been filed related to the health and safety of patients, according to the union.

"With this petition, we are sending a powerful message to our administration that the concerns we have raised through our complaints and to the general public last month are supported and endorsed by nearly every nurse working at this hospital, and that we are united in our effort to hold them accountable for the safety and dignity of our patients and our nurses, who have sacrificed so much to provide care under the truly horrendous conditions they have created," Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the MNA, said in a news release. 

According to the union, the petition states: "We the undersigned registered nurses of Saint Vincent Hospital can no longer remain silent about the dangerous conditions in our hospital. Our administration under the direction of our CEO Carolyn Jackson and Chief Nursing Officer Denise Kvapil, [MSN], have created alternate staffing grids that are forcing nurses on nearly every unit to accept unsafe patient assignments in blatant violation of our union contract. These conditions, in conjunction with a punitive management culture, not only endanger the lives of our patients, but result in nurses leaving the hospital battered and demoralized, and too many looking to leave Saint Vincent for safer practice environments."

In response to the union's allegations, Saint Vincent Hospital shared a statement with Becker's,  saying the hospital "remains focused on providing high-quality as well as regionally and nationally recognized healthcare services for our community. 

"We respect our contract with the Massachusetts Nurses Association and continue to operate in accordance with the provisions that were mutually agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement. We take employee complaints seriously, however, the MNA's accusations are unfounded."

The hospital also accused the union of organizing publicity stunts and spreading false information.

"We do not condone the MNA's tactics of organizing publicity stunts, spreading false rumors and intimidating our leadership," Saint Vincent said. "The MNA's actions are disrespectful to the dedicated nurses, physicians and staff at Saint Vincent Hospital who prioritize caring for our patients. We hope the MNA will reconsider its approach, and instead collaborate with us, and other systems facing similar staffing shortages, to increase healthcare access for the communities we serve."

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