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August 4, 2021

Saint Vincent strike negotiations fall apart, hospital & nurses trade blame

Photo | Grant Welker Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester

Talks between Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester and the Massachusetts Nurses Association union concluded Tuesday leaving the long-term nurses strike unresolved, with contrasting claims about who ended the negotiations.

The hospital presented a proposal on Monday but was told by the mediator the MNA would not resume talks until Tuesday, said Saint Vincent CEO Carolyn Jackson. 

On Tuesday, however, MNA sent out a press release instead of joining the meeting, said Jackson.

The press release said the hospital refused the mediator’s offer to elevate talks to higher-up mediators in Washington, D.C., causing talks to end.

Jackson said there was no reason to move talks to D.C. as it would require changing mediators after working with the same one throughout the duration of this strike. 

Both parties must now wait for a call from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to hear what the next steps will be, said David Shildmeier, MNA’s director of public communications.

“Whatever happens, we will continue to negotiate in good faith towards a settlement,” said Schildmeier. “But, our nurses are very clear that there needs to be meaningful staffing improvements in the areas they have identified to reach an agreement.”

The main sticking point in the negotiations remains over nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, which the MNA has been trying to lower for years, including in a 2018 Massachusetts ballot initiative.

The hospital cut back services on July 28, citing the striking nurses and staffing shortages as the main reason.

On the same day, Saint Vincent was ranked as the ninth best hospital in Massachusetts in the annual U.S. News & World Report, scoring particularly high in the nurse staffing rankings. In late July, Tenet Healthcare, the Dallas parent company which owns and operates the hospital, reported profits of more than $120 million for the second quarter.

“Tenet can easily afford those improvements,” Shildmeier said, referring to nurses’ calls for better staffing conditions.

The strike will hit its five-month milestone on Sunday. 

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