After Nurses Agree to Contract Extension with No Pay Increase The Hospital Refuses to Provide Early Retirement Incentives and Training Program to Lessen the Impact of the Layoff on Younger Nurses
BOSTON, MA – As nurses prepare for yet another round of layoffs at Boston Medical Center with the MNA union bumping process scheduled for May 31, the nurses at the hospital are outraged by BMC management’s refusal to heed the nurses requests for implementation of an early retirement incentive plan and operating room training program, which would lessen the impact of the layoff, particularly on younger nurses who stand to lose their jobs.
Next week, BMC will begin the layoff process with the closing of 18 beds and the elimination of 8.2 full time equivalent registered nursing positions on the East Newton Campus. BMC is also closing its rehabilitation unit, resulting in the loss of 31 full-time equivalent positions and another 12 positions on the Menino Campus. This is the fourth layoff at BMC in the last three years.
Nurses on the East Newton campus, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), have been attempting to convince hospital management to work with the union on a more reasonable and prudent process for implementing the reductions; a process that would open positions and establish a training program to lessen the impact of the bumping process so that fewer younger nurses are impacted, thus preserving the future of the BMC nursing workforce.
Last week a delegation of nurses presented petitions signed by more than 200 nurses, more than half the bargaining unit, urging management to work with the MNA to develop an early retirement incentive program to allow more senior nurses to voluntarily leave the facility to create more openings for nurses being bumped.
The MNA, in recognition of the hospital’s financial position, has further cooperated with the hospital by agreeing last week to extend their union contract for another year with no salary increase. Yet, in the wake of these good faith efforts hospital management informed the nurses’ union leadership that they have no intention of accepting any of their proposals and will proceed with their reductions as planned.
“We are appalled that the hospital is taking such a hard line and such a shortsighted position on this latest round of layoffs, especially when we have agreed yet again, to make sacrifices to our own financial well being to help this hospital survive,” said Lisa Sawtelle, RN, chair of the nurses local bargaining unit at BMC. “They are taking this hard line after hiring a number of managers and administrators, and while paying who knows how many millions of dollars to consultants. What they fail to realize is that it is the nurses and other direct care staff that make the most difference in this hospital’s ultimate success and that we are the key, particularly the development of our younger nursing staff, to BMC’s future success.”
Among its proposals, the union has offered to work with the hospital in creating an innovative training program for nurses who want to learn how to work in the operating room, with the MNA providing clinical training and expertise to the project. Operating room nursing is a specialty area dominated by an aging workforce and there has long been a shortage of qualified operating room nurses throughout the health care system. The availability of a training program would allow younger nurses the option of taking positions in the operating room, while also building a valuable resource for BMC’s future success, as surgical services are among the most profitable services offered by any hospital.
The latest snub of nurses by BMC management will only further deteriorate the staff’s trust and faith in the hospital administration, which has a long history of disrespect and punitive treatment of its nursing staff. Two years ago the nurses took an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the Director of Nursing, Lisa O’Connor, an unprecedented demonstration of frustration by a nursing staff. The hospital responded by retaining O’Connor at a higher salary.
“Our main concern has always been to be the best nurses we can be to further the goals of this medical center, Sawtelle explained. “We can’t understand why management is showing so little respect for those who are the true backbone of this institution. In the end, it is the patients who suffer under these conditions.”