Citing Safety Concerns, 1,200 Nurses Stage One-Day Strike At Tufts Medical Center

Hospital Safety Insider, July 14, 2017

Nurses complained of hospital's 'bare-bones approach' and 'unsafe staffing situations on a daily basis.'

By Steven Porter

This article was originally published in Hospital Safety Insider, July 13, 2017.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) says 1,200 of its members employed at Tufts Medical Center in Boston walked off the job Wednesday morning, staging a one-day strike as contract negotiations have stalled.

The nurses, who make less on average than their counterparts at other Boston hospitals, have sought higher compensation and better pensions. And they have raised safety concerns over staffing practices at Tufts.

“We have been trying for months to convince Tufts management that our patients and nurses are suffering because they refuse to provide us with the resources, appropriate patient assignments, and the compensation we need to ensure quality patient care,” said union co-chair Barbara Tiller in a statement.

Across all units and floors, nurses at Tufts have been dealing with “unsafe staffing situations on a daily basis,” the union said in its statement. As a result, nurses have regularly been assigned too many patients at once, with daily calls for nurses to pick up available shifts “due to the bare-bones approach management uses to staff the hospital,” the union said.

While the nurses billed their demonstration as a one-day strike, the hospital said any nurse who did not report to work on Wednesday would be barred from returning until Monday, as National Public Radio affiliate WBUR reported.

“We needed to recruit nurses from around the country with the specific skill sets we need to care for our patients,” Tufts chief nursing officer Terry Hudson-Jinks said. “In order to get those nurses to come in for the one day we needed to have five days worth of schedules for them.”

Tufts said the 320 nurses would fill-in with 12-hour shifts to cover for the striking union members—a plan that was reviewed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, WBUR reported.

Staff nurses tried to return to work Thursday morning, but they were barred from doing so. Tufts spokesperson Rhonda Mann said the attempted return was merely "a stunt orchestrated for the media," CBS Boston reported.

"The union was aware—well before it issued a strike notice—that a strike would force us to bring in expert nurses for a contractually-required five day period. We communicated this to our nurses through emails, meetings and letters sent to their homes," Mann said. "Nurses who came to work today may continue to work during the five day period. Those who chose not to work today know they can return Monday. If the MNA was so concerned about our nurses returning to the bedside, it should never have taken them out on strike and away from their patients.”

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