Over 700 nurses employed at the St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts have been on strike for 114 days. This is the longest strike in the history of the state and one of the longest in the country.
Nurses are protesting what they consider to be unsafe staffing practices, and are demanding that Tenet, the company that owns and runs St. Vincent Hospital, institute safe staffing ratios, which would include a 1-4 nurse-to-patient ratio on the medical surgical floors. Nurses are also demanding that staffing be ensured so that nurses are not forced to do overtime to cover for the lacking staff. So far, Tenet has refused to agree to these demands and has spent millions of dollars hiring replacement nurses, paying for the transportation for these replacement nurses, and hiring extra security staff to manage the pickets.
Prior to the strike, the nurses at St. Vincent had filed over 600 “unsafe staffing reports” where they stated that the current staffing levels were jeopardizing the safety of their patients. Tenet has no excuse to block the request for more staffing, since it reported a profit of over $70 million the year prior to the strike.
There are no federal nurse-to-patient ratios that protect patients and nurses. California is the only state in the country with such a law. Due to this, hospitals across the country can force nurses to take care of an unsafe number of patients. The nurses’ union in California has released numerous reports showing how the safe nurse-to-patient ratio law in California has saved the lives of thousands of patients throughout the years.
What the nurses at St. Vincent are demanding is not only necessary in Massachusetts, but it should also be a rule for all hospitals in the country.