BOSTON, April 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Tufts Medical Center today reiterated its commitment to providing high quality care to patients following notification by the Massachusetts Nurses Association and its parent union National Nurses United of a walkout beginning May 6th. The Medical Center learned today that it will be one of five hospitals facing strikes by NNU affiliates in that same week, along with St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Children’s Hospital Oakland (Calif.), Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and Range Regional Health Services in Hibbing, Minn.
“The idea of National Nurses United taking five hospitals out on strike in one week proves they are focused on their national agenda and not on the patient care at these hospitals,” said Ellen Zane, President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center. “We are extremely disappointed that they would take this reckless, national approach in Massachusetts and in Boston. It is clear that this is a selfish, self-serving agenda designed to increase MNA/NNU membership, and thus generate more union dues. What is reprehensible is they are using our nurses as pawns in their scheme. It appears – as we suspected from last November when we initiated negotiations – that they had no intention of reaching agreement with us and only sought to line up several hospitals for strikes to gain publicity. Tufts Medical Center is committed to serving its patients and community, and we will continue to deliver high-quality care throughout any walkout.”
Zane emphasized that the hospital will provide outstanding care during the strike in which it will bring in other nurses to care for patients along with the entire care team at Tufts Medical Center, including physicians, nursing technicians, pharmacists, social workers and many other dedicated professionals.
“Preparations are well under way to ensure that the care of our patients and their families will not be disrupted by a walkout,” said Michael Wagner, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Tufts Medical Center. “Patients and their families should feel confident that they will receive excellent care here in the event of a strike. Tufts Medical Center will remain ready to care for our scheduled patients as well as our emergency and trauma patients, as we remain true to our mission regardless of the actions taken by a national union.”
In preparation for the walkout, Tufts Medical Center has a staffing agreement with one of the nation’s leading and most reputable temporary nurse staffing firms. The firm will provide hundreds of highly-skilled nurses to care for patients through the duration of the strike. This agreement requires at least five days of work time for these nurses. Tufts Medical Center will also lower its census prior to May 6th and after the five days will bring back nurses accordingly as census rebounds. The strike is expected to cost the hospital at least $4.2 million.
“The MNA/NNU purports to care about patient safety yet they are once again using strike as a negotiating tactic and frankly a scare tactic, and it is particularly shameful of them to plan this action for National Nurses Week, which is meant to celebrate the professional practice of nursing,” Zane said. “We have been clear: under no circumstances will we agree to rigid, mandatory ratios, before or after a strike. Our quality metrics demonstrate that we are delivering care the right way, using an entire team of caregivers to surround the patient. The additional burden of mandatory RN ratios will only add to costs and feed into the union’s agenda. We have offered excellent, concrete proposals at the table that resolve issues our nurses have brought to us. We can never accept the MNA/NNU’s ratio agenda.”
Tufts Medical Center has been in good faith negotiations with the MNA/NNU for the past six months, even as the union has clung to an unsustainable demand for rigid mandatory staffing ratios. The ratios proposed by the MNA/NNU would cost the hospital an exorbitant $33 million annually at a time when our quality scores are already outstanding and continue to improve. Tufts Medical Center has enhanced its processes and its patient care team over the past year and a-half, but the MNA/NNU ignores the contributions of members of the team who are not RNs and therefore not eligible for union membership. The results of our enhancements show in our excellent and improving quality metrics as verified by independent, third-party organizations. At a negotiation session today, the MNA/NNU once again insisted that rigid ratios had to be incorporated into any contract; this was the last planned negotiation session and no new dates have been scheduled.
In addition to the strikes called against Tufts Medical Center, St. Vincent Hospital, Children’s Hospital Oakland, Eastern Maine Medical Center, and Range Regional Health Services, the NNU has led similar strikes at other hospitals across the nation over the past year – mostly in response to the same failed attempts to secure rigid staffing ratios. The NNU led one-day walkouts against 14 hospitals in Minnesota, as well as hospitals in Washington D.C., California, Pennsylvania and Maine. In recent weeks the NNU has also held multiple strike authorization votes in hospitals in Massachusetts and other states. None of these hospitals has subsequently agreed to mandatory staffing ratios.
“There’s no doubt that this reckless decision to walk out is destructive to our efforts to reach agreement and unnecessarily puts patients in the middle of the unions’ business goals,” said Zane. “While we have recognized the valuable contributions of our nurses with strong, concrete proposals, we must act responsibly on behalf of all of our patients, staff and our community in this era of health reform. Tufts Medical Center is committed to providing quality and affordable care, and this MNA/NNU strike will not alter that critical mission.”