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March 13, 2024

DPH refutes Saint Vincent claim, says investigation into hospital conditions remains ongoing

A group of striking workers hold picket signs outside Photo | Grant Welker Striking Saint Vincent Hospital workers during the 2021-2022 nurses strike

On Tuesday morning, Saint Vincent Hospital put out a press release implying the ongoing Massachusetts Department of Public Health investigation into its conditions was complete, with the officials clearing the Worcester facility of any deficiencies related to claims from nurses about conditions at the facility.  

Hours later, DPH confirmed Saint Vincent’s claim was misleading: A Department of Public Health spokesperson told WBJ the investigation into Saint Vincent is not yet complete, and that no conclusions can be made about its findings at this time. 

Saint Vincent officials did not respond to multiple requests from WBJ on Tuesday and Wednesday to clarify the significant discrepancy between DPH’s confirmation and the Tuesday press release from the hospital, where Saint Vincent CEO Carolyn Jackson claimed a five-day, on-site DPH survey was complete and showed zero deficiencies relating to staffing or quality of care.

Photo | Courtesy of Saint Vincent Hospital
Carolyn Jackson, CEO of Saint Vincent Hospital, in Worcester

“To have no negative findings for staffing and quality of care from the DPH is a reflection of the consistent collaboration and dedication to patient care that our staff and physicians demonstrate every day,” Jackson said in the Tuesday press release. “We appreciate DPH’s thoughtful approach to the detailed survey that was completed. Our team was proud to show them the inner workings of our high-quality organization.”

The hospital’s press release went on to say that public health officials examined the hospital’s operations in great detail and five of the six alleged complaints were found to be completely unsubstantiated. Saint Vincent said that the survey “helped uncover an opportunity for improvement relating to the hospital’s telemetry monitoring equipment, which the hospital was already in process of addressing, and has now been fully corrected.” The hospital did not offer any further details on what the issue was relating to the telemetry monitoring equipment, nor did it provide a copy of the report when asked.

In counter to this claim, DPH confirmed its investigation into the hospital’s conditions remains ongoing.

"The Department of Public Health (DPH) began an onsite investigation at St. Vincent Hospital on January 31, 2024. This investigation is still ongoing, and no conclusions can be drawn at this time. DPH cannot comment on open investigations," DPH spokeswoman Katheleen Conti said in a Tuesday evening email to WBJ.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association labor union wasted no time in criticizing the hospital for this misleading claim.

“The nurses of St. Vincent Hospital were gratified to learn that the DPH has countered the hospital’s false claim that they have been in any way exonerated for the claims we have made about patently dangerous conditions at the hospital, conditions that are jeopardizing the safety of our patients nearly every day on every shift,” Marlena Pellegrino, co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with MNA, said in a statement shared with WBJ on Tuesday night, following the DPH confirmation of an ongoing investigation.

This controversy is the latest chapter in the fight between the facility nurses and hospital management over conditions at the hospital, as relations between the two parties have deteriorated since the MNA’s 301-day strike ended in early 2022. In January, MNA announced more than 600 complaints have been filed by union nurses about the impact of low-staffing levels on patients and nurses.

In early March, the national nonprofit accrediting agency The Joint Commission found Saint Vincent to be out of compliance with Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services conditions, and that the Worcester hospital needed to show evidence to keep its voluntary accreditation from the nonprofit.

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