The union representing registered nurses at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester have notified both health care providers that it plans a one-day strike on May 6 to dramatize the nurses' demand for higher staffing levels.
About 1,000 nurses are expected to walk off the job that day at Tufts in what the union says would be the first strike at a Boston teaching hospital in more than 25 years. About 740 plan to strike at Saint Vincent, a for-profit hospital owned by Vanguard Health Systems.
While members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association took strike authorization votes earlier this month at both hospitals, the notifications raised the stakes in the increasingly tense
standoff. Both hospitals have plans to bring in replacement nurses for at least five days. In other words, should the nurses walk out May 6, they won't be allowed to return until May 10 at the earliest, hospital officials said.
Management at Tufts and Saint Vincent's presented union representatives with what was termed their "last, best, and final offers" at contract negotiations yesterday, offers that didn't include concessions on what the union considers safe staffing levels.
"Both of these hospitals have created the worst staffing conditions in their respective cities," said David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Canton-based nurses association. "Both of them seem committed to forcing a strike rather than fixing the problem."
Hospital officials insisted they have maintained or improved health care quality and safety while taking steps to make their staffing operations more efficient.
"We've made it clear that we will never agree to mandated staffing ratios for the self-serving purpose of increasing union rolls," said Ellen Zane, president of Tufts Medical Center, an affiliate of Tufts Medical School. "It is an irresponsible request at a time when everybody in the country is looking under every rock for nickels for health care."
Zane estimated the strike would cost Tufts about $4.2 million. The hospital would hire replacement nurses for five days because of its contract with US Nursing, a strike nurses agency, that guarantees a minimum number of hours for replacement workers. At Saint Vincent, spokesman Dennis Irish said that, while some staff nurses would be called back after five days, others could remain out longer.
"This is a callous, deliberate attempt on the part of the MNA to cripple our attempt to provide care to patients," Irish said.
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|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
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