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February 27, 2024

Heywood nurses secure new contract as hospital navigates bankruptcy

The entrance of Heywood Hospital in Gardner Photo | Christine Peterson Heywood Hospital in Gardner

As Heywood Hospital continues to navigate the bankruptcy process it began in October, the Gardner facility’s nurses have secured a new contract their union claims will help address alleged long-standing issues with staffing levels and stagnant wages.

Heywood’s nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, voted on Thursday to ratify a contract including a number of new or improved benefits, according to a release issued by the union on Tuesday. The new contract runs through September 2025 and will result in a 7-8% increase in wages for the nurses through the length of the contract when pre-existing step raises are included. There are 264 nurses at the facility, said Joe Markman, MNA’s associate director of public communications. 

"Under this contract, nurses know they will receive competitive raises and that their benefits will be protected, which will positively impact morale," Jess Downer, Heywood registered nurse and MNA bargaining committee member, said in the press release. "We are excited to be part of the effort to ensure our community has access to local hospital care far into the future."

In addition to the across-the-board increase in wages, the contract includes an increase in on-call pay and weekend differential pay. On-call pay will increase from $4 an hour to $5 an hour, while the rate for nurses working weekends will increase 50 cents per hour.

“We are pleased that our MNA bargaining unit members unanimously ratified the MNA contract on February 22, 2024. Throughout negotiations, we listened carefully to the union’s concerns and addressed the priority issues voiced by the bargaining committee,"  Rozanna Penney, president and CEO of Heywood Healthcare, said in a statement provided to WBJ. "We are grateful for the dedication of our nurses and honor the essential role our nurses play in caring for our patients.” 

The contract includes protections for operating room nurses who are called in for overnight work, ensuring mandatory rest periods allowing nurses to avoid having to work a day shift immediately after without a loss in pay.

"By properly valuing the care we provide, the hospital can better recruit and retain the nurses we need to keep up with high demand and an increase in the complexity of patient needs," Kim Fuller, Heywood registered nurse and chair of the MNA bargaining committee, said in the press release. "We will continue to hold Heywood Healthcare leadership accountable for providing excellent care to all community members in need."

MNA’s negotiation of a new contract for Heywood’s nurses comes as the union is in a public fight with management at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester. MNA has claimed conditions at the hospital are jeopardizing the safety of patients and leading to an exodus of staff. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated from a previous version to include a quote from Heywood President and CEO Rozanna Penney.

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