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February 26, 2021

Despite looming strike, Saint Vincent commits to staffing Worcester State vaccine center

Photo | Grant Welker Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester

Saint Vincent Hospital is preparing for a potential nurses strike but won't let the prospect of having to call in staffing help keep it from covering shifts at a COVID-19 vaccination site at Worcester State University.

The Worcester hospital said Friday it will honor its commitment to manage and staff the vaccine center, which is inoculating hundreds of people per day as part of a growing vaccination effort statewide. Roughly 40 shifts per week are covered by Saint Vincent nurses, something hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson said will continue even if nurses carry through with plans to strike starting March 8.

“We want to reassure the public that the important work at the vaccination center will continue,” Jackson said in a statement. “Given that we may not have Saint Vincent nurses to staff the center starting March 8, we have been in active discussions with other partners for alternative staffing. We will ensure our community’s access to vaccinations is not compromised. Second dose appointments for the week of March 8 will proceed as scheduled, and first dose appointments will be available that week as well.”

Saint Vincent nurses who are part of the Massachusetts Nurses Association gave the hospital a required 10-day notice of a potential strike Tuesday. The two sides have been in long-running negotiations over a contract, with sticking points including staffing levels and compensation.

The union has alleged Saint Vincent has compromised patient safety with low staffing levels, while the hospital has said union leaders walked away from good-faith discussions over a contract.

Jackson said in a separate memo to employees Friday that the hospital had already confirmed replacement nurses who would ensure uninterrupted care and finalized a training program for those nurses.

"Although we will be fully ready for a strike on March 8th if it should occur, we are hopeful that we will be able to execute a new MNA contract before that date," Jackson wrote.

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