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March 21, 2024

Eight Saint Vincent nurses file wrongful termination lawsuit against hospital

A group of people holding signs and police officers stand on a sidewalk in front of a large building. Photo | Grant Welker Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association picket during the record-breaking strike against Saint Vincent's Hospital, which lasted more than 300 days in 2021 and 2022, which largely centered around nurse-to-patient staffing levels.

Eight registered nurses have filed a lawsuit against Saint Vincent Hospital and its owner, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, under the Whistleblower Protection Act, claiming wrongful termination after they reported concerns about unsafe conditions to regulators.

The lawsuit filed in Worcester County Superior Court is part of an ongoing saga where the Massachusetts Nurses Association labor union has claimed staffing levels at the Worcester hospital have created quality of care issues.

The lawsuit claims Saint Vincent has experienced nursing staffing shortages for more than a year, resulting in unsafe and illegal conduct and conditions, including patients being left unattended in emergency department hallways left to sit in their own urine and feces, as well as lengthy delays in triage and care, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit asks for the nurses to be rehired into their former positions, with their benefits and seniority rights. Because of the claimed retaliatory nature of the terminations, the lawsuit is filed under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Saint Vincent on Thursday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

MNA nurses have filed more than 600 complaints with regulators since July about staffing and quality of care conditions at Saint Vincent. Stemming from those complaints, regulators at the Massachusetts Department of Health launched an investigation into Saint Vincent on Jan. 31. Saint Vincent on March 12 claimed DPH had cleared the hospital of any major issues, but that statement was later refuted by DPH, saying the investigation remains ongoing.

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.

Nurses are mandated to adhere to accepted standards of care, and the Saint Vincent nurses were adhering to this regulation when they were terminated by the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs have communicated their concerns to hospital officials, but those emails, texts, and personal meetings were ignored by hospital management, according the lawsuit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to reflect Saint Vincent Hospital offering no comment about the lawsuit.

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