Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

March 7, 2024

Saint Vincent Hospital not meeting standards of care, accrediting agency says

A picket line of union workers stand on the sidewalk in front of a hosiptal. Photo | Grant Welker Union nurses in the initial days of the Saint Vincent strike in 2021.

As Massachusetts Department of Health regulators investigate nurses’ claims of unsafe conditions at Saint Vincent Hospital, a national accrediting agency has found the Worcester healthcare provider is not compliant with industry standards and will have to provide further evidence in order to keep its voluntary accreditation.

Responding to concerns from the Massachusetts Nurses Association labor union, the nonprofit accrediting agency The Joint Commission said in an email to an MNA official that Saint Vincent is non-compliant with Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) conditions. 

Saint Vincent will need to show evidence it is meeting the standards of compliance in order to maintain accreditation by The Joint Commission, the email from the commission’s Office of Quality and Patient Safety said in a Feb. 23 email to Mary Sue Howlett, the associate director of the MNA Division of Nursing. MNA provided the email to WBJ on Wednesday.

Officials at Saint Vincent didn’t respond to requests for comment. Saint Vincent is a for-profit healthcare provider and owned by Texas-based Tenet Healthcare, which also operates MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham and Natick. Tenet has sold off nine hospitals since November.

The Joint Commission, which is based in Illinois, provides voluntary accreditation to more than 22,000 healthcare providers throughout the U.S., according to its website. The nonprofit is the oldest standards-setting organization in the country.

The response from The Joint Commission comes as Massachusetts DPH regulators launched an on-site investigation into Saint Vincent on Jan. 31 after nurses at the hospital filed more than 600 complaints of dangerous conditions, staffing shortages, and retaliation against the union.

The DPH investigation remains ongoing, and regulators cannot comment on the findings so far, DPH spokeswoman Katheleen Conti said in an email to WBJ.

Depending on DPH’s findings, the regulators have more power of enforcement against Saint Vincent than The Joint Commission does.

If Saint Vincent is found to be non-compliant with regulations, DPH will provide a written statement of deficiencies to the hospital, which then must file a plan of correction to ensure patient safety, Conti said.

The MNA has petitioned Saint Vincent to raise its staffing levels. MNA, a union that represents over 20,000 nurses across the state, claims hospital officials are refusing to meet in good faith to discuss alleged problems at the facility. Union members have filed more than 100 complaints regarding alleged violations of the contract that was put in place following the 301-day nurses strike that ended in January 2022. That strike largely centered on staffing levels at the hospital. 

The Joint Commission’s findings are further evidence of the eroding conditions at Saint Vincent Hospital, the MNA said in a press release on Wednesday.

“While it is encouraging to see independent investigators validate our concerns and our claims, the fact remains that nearly every day on nearly every shift, our administration continues to violate these safety standards, and other mutually negotiated contractual commitments designed to ensure safe patient care, which continues to cause preventable harm and unnecessary suffering for those under our care,” Marlena Pellegrino, MNA co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit, said in the press release. “We can only hope all these agencies, who have a responsibility for holding hospitals accountable for keeping our patients safe, take immediate steps to end this suffering.”

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners

Related Content


Order a PDF