TAUNTON, Mass., March 16 The 400 registered nurses and health professionals of Morton Hospital plan to conduct an informational picket outside the entrance to the facility from 2 - 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, as contract talks continue to stall over inadequate staffing, mandatory overtime and the hospital's plan to dismantle the nurse's defined benefit pension, issues the nurses believe compromise their ability to recruit and retain staff needed to safely care for patients.
"We continue to be disappointed by the hospital's refusal to respect and listen to the serious concerns its frontline staff have about the conditions at this hospital, and our desire to improve them," said Joyce Wilkins, RN, chairperson of the nurses' local bargaining unit. "As such, our efforts to reach out to and educate the public about these issues will continue, as they have the most to lose if the hospital continues in its hard line stance. The bottom line: an exhausted nurse cannot provide safe patient care."
According to the nurses and health professionals, the hospital has failed to provide enough staff to give the care patients deserve, and instead is forcing clinical staff to work extra hours and double shifts, regardless of the impact this may have on the quality and safety of patient care. Studies show that nurses working forced overtime are more likely to make medical errors, and experts say the practice should be prohibited.
The nurses are seeking changes to their contract language that will require the hospital to provide full staffing to avoid the need for forced overtime, while also providing strict limits on the number of times it can be used. The nurses are also seeking a ban on any nurse being required to work more than 12 hours straight, which is recommended by the Institute of Medicine.
Morton management has also come to the negotiating table demanding the right to dismantle the nurses' and health care professionals' pension benefit, unilaterally changing it from a defined benefit to a defined contribution (401k-type) plan.
According to an analysis of the proposal by one of the nation's leading pension consulting firms, for most of the professionals at Morton Hospital a change to a defined contribution pension plan would result in a 36 - 50 percent cut in the employees' retirement benefit. The demand to take away the pension follows the hospital's posting of a $5 million profit, and after awarding its outgoing CEO a $3 million bonus.
The nurses and health professionals, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began negotiations for a new contract on October 15, 2009. To date, 16 sessions have been held, with the last two sessions held with a Federal mediator. The nurses' existing contract expired on March 8, 2010.
When: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 from 2 - 4:30 p.m. Where: Morton Hospital, 88 Washington St., Taunton, MA
SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association