Nurses at Lawrence General to Picket on Thursday, July 28 from 2 to 5 p.m.
LAWRENCE, Mass., July 26, 2022
After 12 months at the contract table fighting for staffing improvements and competitive benefits that will help to recruit and retain staff, nurses opt to go public
When: Thursday, July 28; 2 to 5 p.m.
Where: Outside Main Entrance to Lawrence General Hospital, 1 General St., Lawrence MA
LAWRENCE, Mass., July 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The five hundred unionized nurses of Lawrence General Hospital (LGH), who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), will hold an informational picket on Thursday, July 28, from 2 to 5 p.m. outside of the hospital's main entrance at 1 General St.
The nurses and management have been negotiating since June of 2021, but they have been unable to reach agreements on desperately needed staffing improvements and key benefits that will help to recruit and retain nurses — two areas that, if improved, will enhance nurses' ability to provide the quality of care the LGH patients require.
The MNA sought the involvement of a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and they have been involved with the negotiations since August of 2021.
Nurses' top priority in these negotiations is improving staffing so they can safely deliver the best possible care to patients. The nurses, however, also understand the unique financial circumstances facing Lawrence General and know that they cannot achieve all the staffing ideals that, at a different time, they would be fighting for. Instead, the nurses have offered creative and flexible options on how to make staffing improvements.
Unfortunately, hospital management and its attorney have categorically refused to negotiate over making any contractual commitments related to staffing and nurse workload.
"There are many different creative solutions that could be used to improve staffing, but to have LGH management repeatedly tell its exhausted nurses that they refuse to discuss and commit to any of these solutions is not an option," said MNA co-chairperson and RN Laurie Spheekas.
This refusal has been especially challenging for the nurses, who faithfully served LGH during the worst public health crisis in recent history and in a local community among the hardest hit by the pandemic. They worked in strenuous conditions, knowing that every day they were placing their lives and the lives of their families in jeopardy. But they came to work every day and cared for their patients and the community.
RNs and all caregivers at LGH have been struggling against all odds to provide the best possible care for the people of Greater Lawrence. But, they say, they need help — help in the form of resources. They are asking hospital management to listen to what they need to provide the best care that they know how to provide.
"We have given everything to this hospital over the last two and half years," added Spheekas. "It is time for management to do some very basic things in order to ensure better staffing in the future."
Nurses also want a commitment from management that the hospital's staffing plans for bedside nurses will not change for the worse — giving RNs more patients than the current plans — should charge nurses be carrying an appropriately reduced assignment. "Charge nurses have job responsibilities above and beyond patient care," said Spheekas, "so they should have a reduced patient assignment. But those additional patients should not simply be added to a bedside nurse's current assignment. That is when management needs to call in more staff."
As a way of coping with staffing issues, LGH management has often turned to hiring temporary/travel nurses — a choice that comes at exponential costs, and that eats up the very same money that could be put towards attracting and hiring permanent nurses.
Improved Benefits in Order to Help Recruit and Retain Nurses
The nurses are also seeking improvements to their benefits and wages, which will allow them to recruit and retain the staff needed to meet the healthcare challenges facing this community. Again, the nurses are fully cognizant of the hospital's financial situation and adjusted their contract proposals accordingly.
Health Insurance: Lawrence General Hospital offers its staff a narrow, self-insured health plan. The nurses have proposed that if a service is simply not available through LGH, they can receive that service elsewhere and not pay a higher rate for it — a contract provision that is routine at hospitals with self-insured plans. The nurses have also proposed that if someone gets care at LGH that they do not receive a "surprise bill" simply because the provider they saw in their own hospital is coincidentally not part of the self-insured plan.
Retirement Improvements: Management has acknowledged that their retirement plan is "sub-par." The nurses are seeking an enhancement to their retirement benefit to ensure that all nurses have a dignified retirement comparable to other nurses in the commonwealth.
"While the nurses at LGH remain hopeful that an agreement could be within reach at negotiations on July 27, the MNA bargaining committee calls on all MNA members and community allies to join us on July 28 — anytime between 2 and 5 p.m. — for an informational picket in front of the hospital on General Street," added Spheekas.
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SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association