Starting on January 6th, nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA began informational pickets to raise public awareness of contract negotiations and place pressure on the hospital’s owner, Tenet Healthcare. Although nurses in Massachusetts experienced problems with understaffing and unsafe patient limits for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic exasperated existing problems. Furthermore, St. Vincent nurses have filed more than 400 official complaints of unsafe working and patient conditions, for example because of furloughs and inadequate access to personal protective equipment (PPE) 100 nurses have left St. Vincent to find better working conditions.
Tenet Healthcare, the parent company of St. Vincent Hospital, openly stated their intentions to prioritize their “cash position” over patient care back in April, while nurses and hospital staff faced abysmal pandemic working conditions and furloughs. In addition to receiving $1.6 billion from the federal government through the CARES Act, Tenet Healthcare made a profit of $1 billion in the first three quarters of 2020 and paid its Chief Executive Officer $24 million in 2019. They made their profits by exploiting the labor and compassion of healthcare workers and taking the hard-earned money of working-class people across the country. They also put millions of dollars into defeating Question 1 in 2018 which would have given nurses safe patient ratios. This highlights the predatory nature of privatized healthcare in the United States and the need for a democratically operated National Health Service and free universal healthcare.
The slogan “An Injury to One is an Injury to All” rings especially true when it comes to the medical industry, as the working conditions of nurses and hospital staff impact the quality of patient care. For this reason, members of the Independent Socialist Group (ISG) have enthusiastically attended the pickets to show our support for the nurses and hospital staff. We stand behind the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s (MNA) demands for more PPE, safe nurse-to-patient ratios, more staffing, and better working conditions. This is a continuation of our solidarity work with nurses in struggle in Massachusetts, which included ISG members attending solidarity caravans in March, interviewing a front-line nurse in November, and campaigning for Safe Patient Limits in 2018. We will continue to support these essential workers in the fight for humane working conditions.
The pickets occur daily at the Summer Street entrance to St. Vincent Hospital between 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM EST. The MNA has posted more information on the pickets on their website, and we call on unions and community members to turn out in support of the nurses!
Image Credit: Jacob Bilsky // ISG Members Picketing with St. Vincent Nurses on January 13, 2021.