After filing more than 360 complaints to management, nurses will hold an informational picket outside of a city hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to raise awareness about what they're calling unsafe working conditions during COVID-19.
Story updated to include comments from St. Vincent Hospital.
The protest is being organized by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), nurses will be outside of St. Vincent Hospital on Summer Street in Worcester, 2-4 p.m., wearing masks and being heard. MNA nurses, who are negotiating contracts, have been picketing at hospitals around the state in an attempt to bring attention to hospital safety.
Hospital management said medical care will not be interrupted by the protest and expressed "disappointment" in the action.
"We are surprised and disappointed that the MNA is holding this public action during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with cases increasing in our area to levels that we have not seen since May," hospital leaders said in a statement. "We are in contract negotiations, and we strongly object to their tactic of disseminating inflammatory and misleading rhetoric to try to advance their position in those discussions."
At St. Vincent, a major gripe of the nurses is an alleged plan to co-mingle COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. They are also accusing the hospital of withholding personal protective equipment and having nurses reuse dirty N95 masks.
The MNA nurses’ union is currently in negotiations with Tenet Healthcare, a for-profit, Texas-based organization that runs hospitals in Worcester and the metro area, including St. Vincent.
Over the summer, Tenet said it had earned $88 million between April and June - three times what they made during the same time period last year, according to Patch. Other for-profit healthcare providers, such as HCA, have touted major earnings.
Meanwhile, many nonprofit hospitals are struggling to pay the bills due to a pause in performing non-emergency surgeries and treatments while the virus is still out of control.
Noting the company’s finances, MNA and St. Vincent nurses said they are critical of the furloughs and staffing cuts Tenet has done during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, St. Vincent said that its contract proposal to the MNA includes "substantial" raises and is one of the best offers the hospital has made the union in 10 years.
"We will continue to negotiate in good faith in hopes of reaching a successful resolution," the hospital said.
"We are proud of the professionalism and dedication demonstrated by our caregivers and staff during this unprecedented pandemic."
There are 740 nurses at St. Vincent represented by the MNA. Contract talks resume with Tenent on Dec. 15 with the aid of a federal mediator.
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