This week, they began a plan to picket daily, until they reach an agreement.
740 registered nurses from Worcester based St. Vincent Hospital began a daily picketing action on January 6. Responding to unsafe conditions at the hospital, the nurses will continue to take a stand until an agreement is reached with administrators. According to them, Tenet Healthcare, the corporation in Dallas that oversees decisions, could easily provide the changes and improvements that they are calling for, but the company continues to place profit over the health of patients and workers.
“As nurses, we are legally and morally obligated to advocate for our patients to ensure they are safe and receive the care they deserve,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, a frontline nurse at the hospital and chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). “We have tried for months to convince our administration and the Tenet corporation to provide us with the resources we need to keep the public safe, yet they only make things worse. Now we are taking to the streets once again, this time on a daily basis, to alert the public and the community of our concerns as they have the most to lose if Tenet doesn’t alter its dangerous practices – our patients lives are on the line.”
Nurses are protesting against inappropriate staffing levels, inadequate personal protective equipment, the lack of COVID specific units with limits on the number of patient assignments, and the laying off of secretaries and support staff. They began a protest action on December 1 and since then have had three negotiating sessions with management – during which they were not met with any success. Meanwhile, Tenet continues to cut corners, announcing in April 2020 that their plan was to use furloughs and taxpayer dollars “to ensure we [are] focused on maximizing our cash position,” rather than improving care for patients.
“Tenet is a for profit healthcare conglomerate, and we cannot stand by while they take advantage of a global pandemic to, in the words of their Dallas-based CEO. ‘maintain a strong cash position.’ The voices of our bedside nurses must be heard,” explained Marie Ritacco, a nurse in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “We hold that patient care and the safety of the caregivers must be prioritized before profits going to Dallas and Tenet’s shareholders. We will do everything in our power to shed sunlight on the decisions we believe fail to protect our patients, our community, and our families.”
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.