Just days ahead of a planned strike, nurses at St. Vincent Hospital and its owner Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare remain locked in a standoff over contract negotiations that now has the Worcester hospital preparing to bring in replacements.
After the hospital on Monday made an offer to increase some staffing levels and pay, the nurses and management returned to the negotiating table on Wednesday. The 800 nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association presented a counterproposal to boost staffing levels higher, but the sides did not reach an agreement.
A strike is set to start at 6 a.m. Monday unless a deal can be reached before then.
“It is clear from Tenet’s hardline stance on staffing that they are intent on forcing nurses to strike,” Marlena Pellegrino, co-chair of the bargaining unit for the nurses, said in a statement. “We are sad to see that Tenet holds so little value for our patients, yet we are resolved to do whatever it takes to protect our patients, as it is safer to strike now than allow Tenet to continue endangering our patients every day on every shift.
“As we prepare for a strike, we are always ready to get back to the table to negotiate whenever Tenet is ready do the same,” she added.
But hospital officials said they’re focusing on filling nurses’ shifts during the planned strike.
“We will now turn our full attention to finalizing our plans for a strike to ensure continued operations that provide safe, high quality care to our patients, using replacement registered nurses,” Carolyn Jackson, Saint Vincent CEO, said in a statement.
The hospital has already made a $1.7 million first payment for the replacement nurses. A final payment of $3.7 million is due on Friday.
Jackson said the MNA “left them with no choice.”
“Our plans are in place for Monday morning, and we will be appropriately staffed to continue to provide safe, high quality care,” she added.
The hospital two days ago offered wage increases, a dedicated critical care float position and improved staffing ratios for some units. But the nurses said the proposal didn’t go far enough and crafted a counterproposal for Wednesday, as they pushed for the same staffing levels and wages that are provided to nurses at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
St. Vincent nurses during the last year have filed more than 500 unsafe staffing reports to management, according to MNA.
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