Tenet Massachusetts hospital scales back services amid nurses strike

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Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., is reducing select services because of a nurses strike that has been ongoing since March 8.

The decision was made to maintain core healthcare services during the strike and preserve jobs for Saint Vincent staff that may otherwise be in jeopardy, the hospital said in a news release.

Beginning Aug. 2, Saint Vincent will temporarily reduce inpatient staffed beds by 80 beds, according to the hospital. This includes two of eight medical-surgical units and a surge unit (29 percent of medical-surgical capacity); one progressive care unit (25 percent of critical care capacity); and 10 inpatient psychiatry beds (50 percent of inpatient psychiatry capacity).

Saint Vincent said it will also temporarily reduce procedural areas by eight rooms (26 percent of procedural rooms), including reductions in the operating room, cardiac catheterization lab, endoscopy and interventional radiology.

Additionally, the hospital will temporarily close select outpatient services, including cardiac rehab and wound care.

The hospital's emergency department will remain fully staffed, with staff added as needed, and elective care will be rescheduled as needed, said Saint Vincent.

During the strike, the hospital said it will also continue to postpone service enhancements, including the addition of a linear accelerator to boost local access to radiation oncology, the addition of neuro-interventional radiology, and the expansion of behavioral health staffing to cover 20 beds, among others.

"Scaling back services is something Saint Vincent Hospital had hoped it would not need to do, and this decision was not an easy one," the hospital said in a news release. "By preserving core services now, Saint Vincent Hospital will be able to sustain operations and continue that commitment and performance. The hospital hopes to resume these services and enhance them once the nursing strike ends."

The strike at Saint Vincent has surpassed 20 weeks. Staffing has been a key issue of contention between Tenet and the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents about 800 nurses at the hospital.

While negotiating sessions have occurred with a federal mediator, both sides have yet to reach an agreement.

Now, the union is expressing disappointment in seeing the hospital's plan to scale back services.

"We are disappointed that Tenet continues to put a concern for profits over a concern for the care and dignity of the patients we care for at Saint Vincent Hospital," Marlena Pellegrino, RN, longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in a news release. "This is just another ploy by Tenet to threaten the safety of the public and to intimidate our nurses, at a time when we have been working in good faith to resolve this dispute for the good of all in our community."

Another negotiating session is scheduled for Aug. 2. 

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