Tufts Medical Center nurses and management met for 20 hours Sunday and Monday and are excruciatingly close to agreeing on a new contact that would avert a strike on Friday. But as often happens with serious labor-management disputes, the nurses won't decide whether to strike until the very last minute. Another negotiating session isn't scheduled until Thursday.
Nurses said today that one last issue stands in the way of a resolution: Whether nurses on the day and evening shifts at the Boston teaching hospital can be required to care for six patients at a time, or whether they win language limiting the maximum number of patients to five.
Nurses say caring for more than five patients is unsafe. Hospital executives respond that nurses almost always care for no more than five patients now -- but they want the flexibility to increase that number depending on patients' conditions and how much care they require.
The two sides have reached a compromise on staff levels on the overnight shift and in the intensive care units.
"We're hoping, but we are not there yet,'' said Barbara Tiller, chair of the Tufts bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
The hospital isn't taking any chances. About 200 temporary nurses began flying into Boston Monday and are expected to all be here by tomorrow, in case there is a strike. The hospital will train them tomorrow and Thursday.
"We have to be prepared,'' said Nancy Shendell-Falik, Tufts' chief nursing officer.
Nurses notified the hospital last week that they would walk off the job for one day on Friday, if the dispute over patient to nurse ratios is not solved. A mediator has called a final session for Thursday at 10 a.m.
Negotiations also continue at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, where the MNA is also threatening to strike on Friday.
About white coat notes
|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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