WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Nurses at a Massachusetts hospital have given notice that they plan to strike early next month unless management agrees to boost staffing to better protect patients during the coronavirus pandemic and after it ends, according to the nurses' union.
About 800 nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester plan to start the strike at 6 a.m. on March 8, according to a statement Tuesday night from the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
The nurses are currently in contract negotiations with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, which owns the hospital.
Tenet and St. Vincent management “refuse to heed nurses’ call to increase staffing levels to better protect their patients during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” the union said in a statement.
“We really feel that staffing is the most important issue, and we’ve heard nothing about it from (management) except that staffing is fine. We work at the bedside. It’s not fine,” Dominique Muldoon, a St. Vincent nurse who has been at the forefront of negotiations, told The Telegram & Gazette.
St. Vincent maintains that staffing levels are appropriate and called its most recent contract proposal on Jan. 28 its “last, best, and final” offer.
The latest contract proposal also includes wage increases between 5% and 22% by the end of 2022, and enhanced benefits for part-time nurses.
“As we care for our community and battle the pandemic, we are disappointed that the MNA has walked away from the negotiating table and plans to hold a strike beginning March 8," St. Vincent's management said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
The hospital will remain fully operational and patients will be cared for by qualified replacement nurses, the hospital said.
Management has been willing to return to the negotiating table, but the union rebuffed the offer, the hospital said.
Muldoon said the MNA modified its proposal to ask for staffing ratios to be mostly a 1-to-4 ratio of nurses to patients with some 1-to-5 ratios. She said currently all nurses on the surgical-medical floor have five patients.
The last time St. Vincent nurses went on strike was in 2000, when a 49-day work stoppage helped them get their first union contract.