Massachusetts hospitals bracing for nurses strike

Hospital administrators in Massachusetts suspect the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) is planning to strike on Apr. 22, the start of Easter weekend. 

Unresolved staffing, pay and pension issues have caused ongoing contract negotiations to stall at a number of hospitals in the state, and while MNA officials haven't formally called for a strike, they've indicated they'll use a "labor action" to remedy the situation if needed, according to a recent report in the Boston Globe. MNA has 23,000 nurse members working at 85 hospitals in the state. 

 "Whether or not we're planning a strike will be determined by how these negotiations go,'' association spokesperson David Schildmeier told the Globe earlier this month. 

The strike may cover as many as five hospitals, according to a letter Joseph Mullany, chief administrator for Saint Vincent Hospital, Worcester, sent to the Department of Public Health earlier this month. Industry watchers expect the strike to affect Saint Vincent's, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, Mass., Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Northampton, Mass., and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine. 

Nurses have already picketed at Tufts and at St. Vincent in the last two weeks, leading Tufts to go public, decrying the possible strike, and charging that the swirling rumors and threats from MNA are hurting patient care and threatening negotiations.

St. Vincent's nurses struck back, holding a meeting with the state health department last Thursday to bolster their case.

One of the biggest sticking points: Staffing levels. Nurses have asked for fixed staffing levels of four to six patients per nurse, compared to the existing average of five to seven, according to a recent article written by Massachusetts Hospital Association president Lynn Nicholas, and published in the Globe.

MNA officials point to state health department data showing that at Tufts, at least, staffing ratios are at 1.4 critical care patients per nurse, compared to only 1.03 at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

For more details:

- Read the Globe article
- View Becker's ASC Review analysis
- See the article
- Read more on the MNA website
- Watch this video


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