Picket CHA hospitals in contract dispute centered on patient safety, cuts in sick time
By JOSH RESNEK
Cambridge Health Alliance, the owner of the former Whidden Hospital, is refusing to agree to patient safety improvements and is cutting sick time benefits in a general devaluation of nursing efforts according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
Protests were held out front of three Cambridge Alliance Hospital this week, including the former Whidden Hospital, where nurses and healthcare professionals held informational picketing.
Attention was called to CHA executives allegedly turning their backs on front line healthcare workers.
Instead of honoring the dedication and sacrifices made by nurses and health professionals during the pandemic, the CHA is opting to drag out lengthy and unfair contract negotiations that ignore needed improvements to staffing, pay, and benefits, the MNA claims.
“Despite our critical contributions to our patients and community during the pandemic and beyond, CHA management refuses to treat Everett Hospital healthcare professionals equally,” said Sharen Froilan RN, and Co-chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee at Everett Hospital. “Reaching a fair contract with CHA will mean Everett Hospital nurses and healthcare professionals receive the support we need and deserve as we care for our community.”
Negotiations began in January 2019 over three separate MNA contracts for Cambridge, Everett, and Somerville.
Currently, there are approximately 500 MNA nurses and healthcare professionals at Cambridge, 200 at Everett, and 60 at Somerville.
The parties had to cease negotiations for about six months at the height of the pandemic so nurses could focus on saving lives.
Despite the prolonged negotiations and suspension for a pandemic, CHA refuses to provide any retroactive pay increases for the excellent care provided during the worse pandemic in a century.
CHA also refuses to negotiate over the proper role and safe assignments for charge nurses.
Charge nurses should have no patient assignment or a limited patient assignment to ensure they can coordinate the overall needs of patients, nurses, and the flow on each floor/unit.
A charge nurse should also be available to assist less experienced nurses with more complex cases, while also picking up patient assignments when staff becomes overburdened.
CHA wants to move from a traditional time-off accrual system with sick, vacation, and personal days to earned time and change the rate of accruing such ET.
The MNA will agree to move to an ET system but those RNs with 5-9 years and 15-19 years of service cannot be forced to give up 58 hours of accrued time each year as part of the transition.
CHA refuses to treat healthcare professionals (HCPs) as full members of the MNA bargaining unit.
Instead, it wants to keep the HCPs in a different system than the one offered to the RNs and refuses to grant the HCPs many of the scheduling and shift differentials.
In May 2020, when negotiations were suspended due to the pandemic, CHA nurses and healthcare professionals delivered a petition to senior management and held a public event urging CHA to better support them with personal protective equipment and other safety and support policies.