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September 22, 2021

Saint Vincent doctors beg nurses to return to work

Photo | Grant Welker Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester

The president of Saint Vincent Hospital medical staff, Dr. Bogdan Nedelescu, signed an open letter Wednesday on behalf of the hospital staff urging striking nurses to come back to work as the number of COVID-19 patients surges.

"You are all needed here at Saint Vincent, and we are told there are jobs here for all of you," Nedelescu wrote. "Our community is crying out, and we feel that it is long past time for you to join us back at work. It takes all hands to address our current crisis, and we need you."

Saint Vincent nurses have been striking since March 8 as the Massachusetts Nurses Association union initially pushed for better patient-to-nurse staffing ratios.

The Worcester hospital is facing long wait times due to a significant increase in patients due to rising COVID-19 cases in the region, Nedelescu said in the letter.

The Worcester area recently elevated to a level three high COVID status, according to the letter.

Nedelescu wrote challenges faced by hospitals throughout the state are compounded at Saint Vincent due to the nurses strike.

In August, the hospital closed 100 beds due to staffing shortages, blaming the strike.

The MNA bargaining committee has agreed to a contract with the hospital, but is continuing the strike on the grounds that some nurses would have to return to different positions than they held previous to the strike, said David Shildmeier, MNA spokesperson, in a previous interview.

Close to 700 nurses are still on strike, according to Shildmeier.

Saint Vincent has hired replacements for about 200 of the 800 nurses who initially went on strike, according to Saint Vincent spokesperson Matthew Clyburn. The hospital has said it will not lay off those replacement nurses, saying instead it will hire all of the union nurses back and put those whose original positions have been replaced into new positions.

In the letter, Nedelescu said it was “disappointing that the only remaining impediment is the bargaining committee’s demand that all strikers must be given their previous shifts or will not return.”

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