Quincy Medical Center nurses say they will hold a one-day strike on April 11 to protest recent changes to the hospital that nurses claim are creating unsafe patient conditions.
According to a release, a majority of Quincy Medical nurses, all members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, voted to strike after Steward Health Care, the owner of Quincy Medical Center since 2011, decided to shut down a 40-bed nursing unit and subsequently lay off 30 nurses.
Though hospital spokespeople say the changes are in an effort to respond to market demands, nurses claim that the switch from in-patient to outpatient services has created chaos in remaining areas of the hospital.
“The public needs to know how worried we are, that we’ve been telling management we don’t consider this situation to be safe, and they have been refusing to discuss the staffing plan with us,” said Stacey McEachern, RN, a nurse in the emergency department, in a release.
McEachern and others have said that patients who would normally be in beds are now relegated to stretchers in the ER. Others are taking up space in hospital areas they don’t belong, and depriving beds from more urgent patients in need of immediate care
“The bottom line is patients are being deprived of the services they need,” McEachern said
The strike will begin at 6 a.m. on Thursday, April 11 and will end at 6 a.m. on Friday, April 12.
Despite nurses' complaints, Chris Murphy, a spokesperson for Steward Health Care, said that the patients have not suffered at all as the hospital continues to change.
"The whole point of this is the MMA wants to cling to the old ways even though the old ways are what drove Quincy into bankruptcy less than two years ago ...," Murphy said. "The future of Quincy is not about having an empty unit stay open…while nurses sit there reading. No one would invest in that future."
Murphy noted the irony that the strike, which could have potentially harmed patients, was a way to complain about patient care.
Regardless, Murphy said Quincy Medical Center would be prepared if a strike did occur.
"No patient will be harmed because of this action, and we will be fully staffed with qualified nurses if there is a strike," Murphy said. "The strike itself, despite what the MMA is saying, is not about quality, it's about money."
Murphy went on to say that the one-day strike and complaints about conditions are negotiating tactics the National Nurses Association, of which the Massachusetts Nurses Association is a subset, uses often.
Nurses have not hid the fact that they are going through negotiations with the hospital, but paint a very different picture as to why they are protesting changes, saying that the layoffs are a further blow to already inadequate staffing.
For Paula Ryan, a nurse at the hospital and chair of the MNA local bargaining unit, the strike is about patient care.
“We have presented written reports; we have told them we are worried that there are immanent risks of negative patient outcomes. They have refused to respond except to say that this is a financial decision,” Ryan said in a release. “We feel that we have a duty to our patients and our practice and to each other to take action. We also consider it to be our duty to the future of this hospital that we love.”
The vision is one that is starkly different from that as detailed by hospital management, who have continued to say the hospital has empty beds and short emergency room wait times.
The discrepancy may be sorted out through government channels, as the Association has filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint through the National Labor Relations Board.
According to the release, there are 236 nurses at Quincy Medical Center.