WORCESTER, Mass. — Eight hundred union nurses at St. Vincent Hospital here went on strike March 8 over dangerous understaffing and unsafe working conditions. The workers, members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have been in contract negotiations with Tenet Healthcare bosses since November 2019.
In the last year alone, nurses filed more than 600 “unsafe staffing” complaints. They document increased patient falls, bed sores, and delays in patients receiving medications, all due to inadequate staffing. Nurses are being over-assigned and support staff has been cut.
They are demanding the nurse-to-patient ratio be reduced to four patients to a nurse, as opposed to five, that management insists on. The bosses have hired replacement workers to keep the hospital open.
Hospital officials claim “there is no valid research that concludes that staffing ratios improve patient outcomes.”
Tenet Healthcare is a Dallas-based, for-profit corporation. St. Vincent is Tenet’s most profitable operation in Massachusetts. On Feb. 10 it announced a profit over the last year of $414 million.
The strike is in its second week and has gotten solidarity from workers in the community and other unions. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445, which organizes 600 hospital patient-care assistants, technicians, clerks, housekeeping workers and aides and whose own contract expired Feb. 28, hasn’t gone on strike but its members have joined in the nurses’ picketing.
“We have 23 patients for one PCA, this is unheard of,” Local 1445 Business Agent Steven Lajoie told the press. “That is simply unsafe.”
“This is not my first strike, I was out here in 2000,” Trish Walmot, a nurse of 29 years at the hospital, told the Militant. She was referring to the successful 49-day strike where they won their first contract.
“We are here in solidarity with the nurses,” Jim Marioles, who came with a delegation of 25 National Grid gas workers from Boston organized by United Steelworkers Local 12003, told the Militant. “When we were locked out for seven months the nurses gave us solidarity, now it’s our turn.”