WORCESTER, Mass., July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- As the nurses prepare to head back to negotiations on Monday to resume a good faith effort to reach an agreement to end their strike for safer patient care (now on its 145th day), they were dismayed to see the hospital's threat to scale back services and once again, compromise care for the residents of Greater Worcester when there are 700 nurses outside the hospital ready and willing to get back into the building to provide the care and services their patients expect and deserve. 

Massachusetts Nurse Association (PRNewsFoto/Massachusetts Nurses Association) (PRNewsfoto/Massachusetts Nurses Association)

"We are disappointed that Tenet continues to put a concern for profits over a concern for the care and dignity of the patients we care for at St. Vincent Hospital," said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association. "This is just another ploy by Tenet to threaten the safety of the public and to intimidate our nurses, at a time when we have been working in good faith to resolve this dispute for the good of all in our community."

As the strike is in its 21st week, last week Tenet reported profits of more than $120 million for the second quarter of 2021, after posting a profit of $97 million during the first quarter for a total profit for the year of more than $217 million. Since the strike began, Tenet has spent more than $95 million to prolong the nurses strike at St. Vincent Hospital, a fraction of which would have funded the staffing improvements the nurses are seeking.

The announcement by Tenet comes just a few days after the parties met for two days in what were productive talks that the nurses continue to hope will lead to a settlement to end the strike. 

"This is no time for posturing and service reductions, this is the time for a good faith negotiation to resolve this dispute," Pellegrino added. 

The problems with staffing that Tenet claims have precipitated their decision to scale back services are the direct result of their failure to heed the nurses concerns that led to the strike and Tenet's efforts to prolong it.  Back in May the hospital walked away from the table claiming they would permanently replace the nurses, a threat and a tactic that has obviously failed miserably.  After trying to staff the hospital with strike replacement nurses from across the country, the care inside the building has deteriorated, with reports of deplorable care being delivered by these nurses, and chaos within the facility.  In recent weeks, the nurses have received reports of a growing number of resignations of technicians, patient care assistants and other staff who no longer want to work under the conditions created by Tenet.  All the while, there are 700 nurses with more than 1,000 years of experience and service to the hospital ready and willing to re-enter the hospital to restore a reputation badly tarnished by Tenet. 

As to Tenet's touting of Tenet's ranking by U.S. News, the nurses point to the only data on the quality of nursing care in the hospital that matters: 700 nurses who have been on strike for 145 days, and a picket sign they wear that reads "If nurses are out here, there is something wrong in there."

Call for a Federal Investigation  

While the nurses in Worcester call Tenet's focus on profits over patients into question, a number of federal policy makers are also calling out the corporation for its conduct, including its misuse of more than $2.6 billion in taxpayer-supported pandemic funding from the CARES Act stimulus package.  This was funding that was supposed to be used by hospitals to provide PPE, staffing and other resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet in Tenet's hands was used to fund corporate expansion, pay down debt, buy back stock for executives and, in the words of CEO Rittenmyer as reported in the Dallas Morning News in April of 2020, "to maximize our cash position."

On June 30, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), along with Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02) and Lori Trahan (MA-03), sent a letter to Tenet Health Chief Executive Officer Ronald A. Rittenmeyer questioning the company's use of taxpayer funds, including federal CARES Act grants and loans, to enrich its executives and shareholders rather than meet the needs of its health care workers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced in part by an ongoing nurses' strike in Massachusetts and other Tenet facilities across the nation. This call for accountability by Tenet is in addition to efforts by other public officials, specifically, Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) and Rosa Delauro (D-CT), who sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Director Xavier Becerra and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter, seeking a federal investigation into whether Tenet and other major hospital operators have misused their stimulus grants and other COVID relief funds.

For a more detailed review of the staffing crisis, efforts by nurses to convince Tenet to address the crisis, as well as proposals nurses are seeking to improve patient care, click here to view a previous press release on the matter. 

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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.


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SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association

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