WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts hospital where nurses have been on strike for more than two months has started the process of hiring permanent replacements.

The move was made after the union representing nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester “made their intentions to continue the strike known by adding a number of non-negotiable items to its already unreasonable staffing proposal," the hospital, owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, said in a statement Wednesday.

The nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association went on strike March 8 seeking improved nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, which they say is needed for patient safety. The hospital counters that staffing levels are within industry standards.

The hospital is planning to fill approximately 50 nursing positions with its first job posting.

“We had hoped we would not need to take this action. However, without a signal that the MNA is willing to compromise and reach resolution, we do not have a choice,” St. Vincent Hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson said.

The union called the hospital's announcement an attempt to intimidate the nurses.

”It is truly sad that Tenet has stooped to this level, and their decision to move in this direction just demonstrates the lack of integrity of this organization, and how little they value the nurses of this hospital who, particularly in the past year, have sacrificed so much for our patients and the community Tenet is here to serve,” said St. Vincent nurse Marlena Pellegrino, co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit.

The move could mean that striking nurses will not have the right to return to work when the strike ends, but instead will be placed on a “preferential hire list,” the hospital said.

St. Vincent has about 800 nurses although about 140 have returned to work. The hospital has also hired temporary replacements.