Steward accused of illegally firing nurse union organizer

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is alleging that Massachusetts hospital operator Steward Health Care unlawfully fired a nurse in retaliation for organizing with the union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU) claims. However, the hospital operator says the termination had to do with her performance.

Mary Ramirez, a registered nurse at Holy Family Hospital, led union efforts in July 2011. In August 2011, Ramirez administered morphine to a patient intravenously (through an IV) instead of by injection, according to the Eagle-Tribune--what the union press release last week called "a minor medication error that caused absolutely no harm to the patient."

Steward Health Care fired Ramirez and filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing. Although the hospital operator said that another nurse initially reported the error, the union said Ramirez herself reported the error.

"Participation in union organizing activities played no role in the decision,'' hospital spokesman Chris Murphy said.

"By changing the delivery method the patient was put at a greater risk for adverse reaction," Murphy continued. "Jeopardizing patient safety is not accepted."

The complaint also charges that Steward posted a memo that nurses wearing buttons that support Ramirez would be disciplined.

This is the third formal complaint filed by the NLRB against Steward Health Care since it has become owner of more than 10 Massachusetts hospitals, according to the press release. The nurses union once supported Steward's acquisition of six Catholic hospitals in the Caritas Christi Health Care system in 2010, but relations between the two parties since have soured, The Boston Globe reports.

Steward Health Care next month will face a hearing before the NLRB about the charges, according to the Taunton Gazette.

To learn more:
- read the MNA press release
- here's the complaint (.pdf)
- check out the Boston Globe article
- here's the Eagle-Tribune article
- read the Taunton Gazette article