RNs at Steward St. Elizabeth’s to picket on Thursday, Nov. 30
Chronic understaffing and unsafe patient assignments in neonatal ICU, ED, and psych units bring nurses to the street
What: Informational picket by the 600 RNs at Steward St. Elizabeth's Medical Center
When: Thursday, November 30 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Where: 736 Cambridge St, Brighton
The 600 MNA nurses at Steward Health Care’s St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton will hold an informational picket on Thursday. Nov, 30 from 2 to 4 p.m. outside of the hospital. The picket is intended to draw the public’s attention to Steward St. Elizabeth’s pattern of chronically understaffing the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (ICU), adult ICU, emergency department (ED), and psych units.
The nurses’ existing contract is set to expire the day after the picket, on Dec. 1, and the nurses are currently in contract talks with hospital management for a successor agreement. But according to the MNA union leaders at St. Elizabeth’s, the employer is not honoring — and has not been honoring — the promises they committed to as part of the nurses’ existing contract.
“For the past five years hospital administration has been in turmoil, with constant turnover in management,” said Chris Kenney, RN in pre-admission testing and bargaining unit co-chair. “This has resulted in numerous violations of the contract, many of which impact patient care.”
RNs at St. Elizabeth’s have long been reporting that:
- There are not enough RNs to cover all shifts, especially in the neonatal intensive ICU, the adult ICU, the adult psych units, and the ED. As a result, nurses are regularly forced to care for too many patients at one time — an unsafe practice that is evidenced by nearly two decades worth of scientific research (http://bit.ly/2zuTlEw).
Additionally, state law mandates a one-to-one, nurse-to-patient limit in all ICUs or, at most, a two-to-one limit ONLY if the on-duty RNs themselves deem it safe and appropriate (http://bit.ly/2BiHASl).
- Nurses’ schedules are posted with scores of “holes,” meaning there are so few RNs that managers cannot articulate how shifts will be filled.
- Management routinely changes nurses’ schedules after they have been posted in a futile effort to fill holes, a practice that is prohibited under the current contract.
“The floors plagued by the worst staffing problems are the floors that are home to our sickest and most vulnerable patients: our neonatal ICU, our adult ICU, our psych units, and our ED,” added Mary Kate Parsons, a cardiology RN who previously worked in the ICU and who is also a bargaining unit co-chair. “Those patients deserve better. They deserve the protections, staff, and resources that management long ago promised to provide.”
Steward Health Care entered the Massachusetts health care market 2010 when its parent company, Cerberus Capital Management, purchased the former Caritas Christi Health Care system. Since then, Steward’s has expanded both locally and nationally. Most recently Steward purchased 25 hospitals in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah — purchases that were enabled, in part, by the $13,629,745 that St. Elizabeth’s contributed to Steward’s 2016 profit margin.
“We take no issue with Steward’s expansion efforts to date,” said Lisa Haggie, a medical/surgical nurse and a longtime bargaining unit leader, “as long as we can ensure that they maintain their commitments to the local patients and staff members who have helped make Steward so successful.”
The St. Elizabeth’s RNs began negotiations for a successor agreement on Sept. 26 of 2017, and four sessions have held been held to date. Each session has been held in conjunction with MNA nurses from Steward’s Good Samaritan Hospital, Norwood Hospital, and Carney Hospital, as these four hospitals have some contractual agreements in common.