My friends at Tufts Medical Center in Boston have been negotiating with the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (unions) for the last several months. At a time when Tufts Medical Center has been pursuing innovative approaches to care delivery and quality improvement while trying to meet the harsh economic realities that we all face, the union is asking for strict staffing ratios – a move that stifles innovation and saddles the organization with millions in added costs. This year, Tufts Medical Center will receive $18 million less in Medicaid payments than it did two years ago. Meanwhile, MNA’s rigid staffing plan would cost Tufts an unsustainable $32 million annually. That’s a formula for disaster. Now the unions have called for a strike vote among its members. Who is that going to help? What is that going to solve? I place an extremely high value on nurses and unions, but this action seems senseless. Who wins in this scenario? I hope to see the nurses back at the bargaining table looking at realistic options that won’t cripple this medical center. This is a time for flexibility, creativity and innovation.
(Below is the latest release from Tufts Medical Center)
Tufts Medical Center Committed to Continuing High Quality Care Should Nurses Walk Out
BOSTON, April 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Tufts Medical Center today condemned a move by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United to call a strike vote, and called on the MNA/NNU to work to resolve its differences at the bargaining table without the threat of a strike. Prior to a negotiation session set for today, the MNA set a strike date at Tufts Medical Center for Thursday, April 14.
The strike vote planed for Tufts Medical Center is part of a pattern of strike votes being held by the NNU in New England and elsewhere. The NNU held a strike vote at St. Vincent’s on April 8th and scheduled a strike vote at Eastern Maine Medical Center on April 12th. The NNU held a strike in Washington, D.C. last month and has threatened another, with a vote scheduled over several days next week.
“A strike will only be destructive to our efforts to reach agreement and will have no positive effect for our nurses whatsoever. It is a scare tactic and is threatening to our patients, to all 5,000 of our employees and to this excellent, historic Medical Center,” said Tufts Medical Center President and CEO Ellen Zane. “We are committed to good faith negotiations and have put forth strong, concrete proposals for our nurses. It is unproductive for the MNA/NNU to focus on strike when they should be offering proposals and counterproposals at the bargaining table. A strike will never change our position on rigid mandatory staffing ratios. So we continue to question why the MNA/NNU would call for such an ineffective and damaging tactic.”
Tufts Medical Center’s leadership is extremely concerned that the true voice of its nurses will not be represented at the strike vote. The MNA/NNU is not required to have an independent third-party oversee a free and fair secret-ballot vote, nor are they required to have the vote count verified by anyone but union officials. The MNA/NNU has a history of holding votes in manners likely to produce the results desired by top union officials. For example, the vote to merge the MNA with the NNU was held over a few hours on a weekday afternoon on Cape Cod. Only 2 percent of the membership was able to vote.
Tufts MC managers have also been made aware that the MNA/NNU is sharing information selectively with its membership, with some members who have questioned or expressed opposition to its strategy and tactics being cut off from communications. Nurses have also complained to administrators that they feel too intimidated and bullied by the MNA/NNU to ask questions or voice opposing views.
Tufts Medical Center feels strongly that all parties will lose in a strike. A strike would cost the Medical Center a minimum $4.2 million. However, the Medical Center has no choice but to oppose the MNA/NNU’s demands for rigid mandatory staffing ratios, as the MNA/NNU’s proposal would cost the Medical Center $33 million annually to implement. Mandatory ratios do not guarantee quality care or patient safety. Tufts Medical Center currently works with its nurse managers and nurses to determine the best nursing assignments and adjust these continuously throughout the day everyday as patient needs change. The quality care currently resulting from such practices at Tufts Medical Center has been highly rated by independent third parties including the Joint Commission and University HealthSystem Consortium.
“Our nurses are a critical part of our health care team, and throughout these negotiations Tufts Medical Center has offered forward looking provisions so that we can move ahead together,” said Zane. “But the demands of health reform are clear – provide better care in a more cost effective manner. It would be irresponsible to our staff, patients and the people of Massachusetts to spend tens of millions of dollars each year on rigid staffing ratios that do not guarantee quality results. The only thing they guarantee are more members for the union.”
Should the MNA/NNU claim a majority “yes” vote for a strike and subsequently call Tufts Medical Center nurses to walk out, Tufts Medical Center is prepared to continue serving patients. The hospital has signed an agreement with one of the nation’s leading and most reputable temporary staffing firms to provide highly-skilled nurses to care for patients. The agreement calls for nurses who travel here to work to receive no less than 60 hours of time. Tufts Medical Center must also lower its census before a strike, and it will take time to return volume to normal levels after a strike ends.
(SOURCE: Tufts Medical Center)