Tenet Massachusetts hospital proposes new offer as nurses' strike nears 4th month

Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., has offered the union representing about 800 nurses at the facility a new proposal option to end a strike that has been ongoing for nearly four months.

The hospital, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, said the proposal offers enhanced resource nurse staffing, generous pay increases, health insurance premium improvements for some nurses, and security enhancements. 

It is the first proposal in negotiations between the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the hospital since May 5. However, the union said the proposal does not go far enough to address nurses' staffing concerns.

Under the proposal, resource nurses would be provided, regardless of patient census, on day and evening shifts for all medical-surgical units, according to Saint Vincent. Incremental resource nurses would also be provided in other areas of the hospital.

Additionally, Saint Vincent said the proposal calls for limits on how many patients resource nurses can take, so they will be available to help other nurses or help address unique staffing circumstances.

"We want our nurses to know we have thoughtfully looked at what other MNA bargaining units are agreeing to across Massachusetts and compared their baseline staffing to ours," Saint Vincent CEO Carolyn Jackson said in a news release. "These other bargaining units are prioritizing additional resource nurses, and they are coming to agreement with their hospitals without a workforce disruption. We compared our baseline staffing to these hospitals and found that we compare favorably with them. This third option is more generous than what other hospitals are settling for."

But the union was not fully on board with the newest proposal. The Massachusetts Nurses Association said the newest proposal includes previously proposed staffing grids but "provides no meaningful steps in response to the nurses staffing concerns, and even reduces staffing protections in a number of areas, including Tenet's reneging on a previous offer to eliminate flex positions, a controversial practice that allowed the hospital to send nurses home on a daily basis, leaving the remaining nurses with unsafe patient assignments." The union said the newest proposal also has reduced wage and health benefit provisions compared to a May 5 proposal. 

In response to the newest proposal, nurses plan to meet with bargaining unit members June 28 to review the proposal, with plans to present a counterproposal to hospital management June 29.

Hundreds of Saint Vincent nurses have been on strike since March 8. 

Before this strike, the last one at Saint Vincent was 21 years ago, when about 600 nurses walked out, according to the Telegram & Gazette. That strike ended after 49 days. 

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