NLRB issues complaint against Tenet hospital

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a formal complaint against St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., indicting it on multiple charges related to nurse management and staffing concerns. 

Becker's obtained a copy of the complaint, which consolidated six cases filed by union-represented St. Vincent nurses between 2022 and 2024. Government attorneys have taken over the case, which is set to begin trial before an administrative law judge June 18.

The NLRB indicted St. Vincent Hospital for directives by its owner, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, that allegedly prevented union staff from visiting the hospital to meet with nurses and prevented nurses from communicating concerns with the hospital's chief nursing officer or other nursing administrators. Instead, nurse complaints have been directed to a human resources executive in Dallas, who has been responding with a "rubber stamp denial," according to an April 11 news release from the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The nurses say they have not met with nursing administration since June 2022. 

In addition, the complaint indicts the hospital for allegedly refusing to provide information on staffing issues to aid nurses' efforts to address them, and for failing to negotiate with nurses over an incentive bonus program designed to address the problem. 

The nurses allege the staffing crisis "has been engineered by the hospital to increase profits at the expense of patient safety." The hospital declined Becker's request for comment. 

Nurses represented by the MNA have filed more than 600 complaints with state and federal agencies since July 2023. During a February on-site review, The Joint Commission found the hospital to be noncompliant with certain CMS standards. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also conducted an on-site review, and, according to Saint Vincent Hospital, it ruled that five of six nurse claims it investigated were "unsubstantiated"; however, the department later told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that the investigation is ongoing and no conclusions can be drawn yet. 

Most recently, eight nurses filed a lawsuit against St. Vincent Hospital and Tenet, alleging they were wrongfully terminated for raising concerns about staffing shortages and care quality. The lawsuit alleges that there have been nursing staffing shortages for more than a year and that sometimes, one nurse will assume a 20-patient assignment. It also recounts incidents of patients left unattended in emergency department hallways and left to sit in their own urine and feces for extended periods.

"We are grateful for [the NLRB's] charge against our administration and we look forward to the opportunity to present our case in court in our ongoing effort to hold our administration accountable for their abhorrent treatment of our members, and more importantly, for the impact these and other practices are having on the safety and dignity of our patients," said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the MNA local bargaining unit for the nurses. 

"At the core of this complaint is Tenet's refusal to meet with us or work with us in any meaningful forum to listen to our concerns and to respond to situations that are harming the very people we are all here to serve."

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