Saint Vincent Hospital Provides Response to Lawmakers’ Recent Letter

Reply is evidence of continued transparency and dialogue during strike

Worcester, MA – June 11, 2021 – Saint Vincent Hospital today released a response from the Board of Directors of its parent company, Tenet Healthcare, to a recent letter from several state and local elected officials, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and Representatives James McGovern and Lori Trahan, and Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty. This response was released by Saint Vincent Hospital as part of its commitment to provide transparency to the community during the prolonged strike by Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).

In the response to the delegation, Tenet reiterated the hospital’s ongoing commitment to quality care. The company also respectfully responded to concerns expressed in the letter regarding the decision to hire permanent replacement nurses in order to stabilize its nursing workforce and support continuity of high quality, patient care for the community.

There continues to be respectful engagement between Saint Vincent Hospital and the delegation. Communication channels with the delegation have been open since before the strike and remain open.

Tenet remains supportive of Saint Vincent Hospital’s commitment to caring for the Worcester community and is following the Hospital’s lead to deliver upon that commitment.

A copy of the letter is below.

From the desk of Ron Rittenmeyer letterhead

June 4, 2021
Senator Elizabeth Warren 
Senator Edward Markey 
Representative James McGovern 
Representative Lori Trahan 
Senator Harriette Chandler 
Senator John Cronin 
Senator James Eldridge 
Senator Anne Gobi 
Senator Michael Moore 
Representative Daniel Donahue 
Representative Kimberly Ferguson
Representative Danielle Gregoire
Representative Natalie Higgins
Representative Mary Keefe
Representative Meghan Kilcoyne
Representative Michael Kushmerek
Representative David LeBoeuf
Representative John Mahoney
Representative Brian Murray
Representative James O’Day
Representative Danillo Sena
Representative Jonathan Zlotnik
Mayor Joseph Petty
Councilor Morris Bergman
Councilor Khrystian King
Councilor Gary Rosen
Councilor Kathleen Toomey
Councilor Sean Rose
Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson
Councilor George Russell
Councilor Sarai Rivera
Councilor Matthew Wally

Dear Massachusetts elected officials:

Thank you for your letter concerning the nurses strike at Saint Vincent Hospital, which was received on May 27.

We have provided regular updates to key stakeholders and continue to remain open to input that will help to resolve this matter. We maintain productive working relationships with unions across the nation. Over the last 18 months, Tenet has settled over 25 contracts, including the Saint Vincent contract with the UFCW in March of this year. We respect our nurses’ right to strike, but we have a responsibility to our community to ensure that we can continue to deliver the high quality of care for which we are known. Bringing in permanent replacement nurses, while certainly not our first choice, is a necessary step to help ensure consistency of our nursing team and safety of our patients since, unfortunately, the MNA has recently publicly informed their members that they intend to stay on strike until September.

Saint Vincent Hospital has made increasing offers with multiple staffing concessions to settle the strike, all of which we have publicly provided, but the MNA has not acknowledged them or materially changed its position. The last offer from Saint Vincent included staffing language identical to UMass Memorial Medical Center’s collective bargaining agreement, as well as five additional concessions on staffing. The union rejected these proposals, despite publicly praising UMass staffing over a dozen times. In that rejection, they continued the false narrative that UMass staffs at 4:1 on their med-surg floors. In fact, no hospital in Massachusetts staffs all med-surg floors at 4:1.

In addition to rejecting the proposal with UMass staffing language, the MNA also rejected a separate proposal that included a 4:1 ratio on two additional, higher acuity med-surg floors. That proposal contained an independent quarterly audit committee to verify staffing as well as expedited arbitration language that was taken directly from the MNA’s proposal.

As you may recall from the 2018 ballot initiative that was opposed by over 70 percent of Massachusetts voters, hospitals and independent reviews found that the initiative would not have resulted in improved quality and would have devastated hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. I have attached the Massachusetts Hospital Association’s statement that was released this week on staffing ratios, directly addressing the challenges Saint Vincent faces in attempting to reasonably resolve negotiations. MHA states:

In this ongoing campaign for rigid four-to-one ratios, the MNA has charged that Saint Vincent, and by implication any other hospital that does not staff at that level in every med/surg unit round the clock is unsafe. It is irresponsible and inaccurate to call any staffing below the level MNA is reportedly seeking in contract talks “unsafe.” These claims ignore patient outcomes and other key metrics recorded by our hospitals and confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

No hospital in Massachusetts can deliver great care without flexibility and well-rounded care teams. Staffing in our hospitals is based on the unique needs of each patient, the specific abilities of each unit, and the contributions of a wide array of clinicians. Rigid ratios, which are not backed by science, take this essential flexibility away from our caregivers.


This same staffing agenda is being pushed across the Commonwealth by MNA leadership through informational picketing at 9 other Massachusetts hospitals with contracts coming up for renewal. From a logical standpoint, it is not possible for all these hospitals to have the same “unsafe staffing” issues like the MNA asserts. In fact, many of these hospitals have top national recognitions for patient safety. The MNA has stated that the issues at Saint Vincent Hospital are unique, and that they are not trying to push their 2018 ballot initiative, however their actions are completely counter to this.

Senators Warren and Markey and Representatives McGovern and Trahan, members of the

Central Massachusetts State Legislative Delegation, and members of the Worcester City Council

The MNA is responsible for the current state of the negotiations. Its bargaining committee has continued to include other unreasonable requests, not related to 4:1 staffing including the creation of a new top step for the most-tenured nurses and further wage increases to the highest paid nurses only, a request for a pension plan as well as adding significantly more staff in the ER without additional patients. Its bargaining committee has refused to put any of our offers to its members for a vote. It is also our understanding that in their open membership meeting on June 2nd, they refused to field questions from their own members and in a remarkably callous move, told their nurses to prepare to be out until September. These actions indicate that the MNA is not bargaining in good faith, and that they have no interest in bringing the strike to a close. The MNA’s bargaining committee is potentially negatively impacting the delivery of health care to the community and holding its nurses hostage, leaving excellent offers on the table for no good reason.

The staffing concessions that Saint Vincent has made in offers to the MNA represent some of the most generous staffing contract language in the nation. Our record of quality and patient safety is extraordinarily clear and we’re sure numerous members of this delegations’ families have chosen Saint Vincent Hospital for their own care. We stand by the staffing, quality, and safety facts we have shared with the public and with you throughout the negotiations.

We remain open to constructive input from any of you to help resolve the matter and respectfully request that you counsel the MNA to engage in a more reasonable manner to bring this to a close.

Sincerely,

Ron Rittenmeyer Signature


MHA Logo

MHA: Rigid Nursing Ratios Are Still Not the Answer

Staffing Ra os Reportedly Sought by MNA are Not Backed by Science, Would Weaken our Healthcare System

BURLINGTON, MA -- The issue of fixed nurse staffing ra os has again resurfaced, this time in the reported contract negations at Saint Vincent Hospital and through recent comments by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

But revising this issue only highlights the shortcomings of ratios that were addressed most recently during the MNA’s unsuccessful ballot question campaign in 2018, including inaccurate charges of substandard care.

In this ongoing campaign for rigid four-to-one ratios, the MNA has charged that Saint Vincent, and by implication any other hospital that does not staff at that level in every med/surg unit round the clock is unsafe. It is irresponsible and inaccurate to call any staffing below the level MNA is reportedly seeking in contract talks “unsafe.” These claims ignore pa ent outcomes and other key metrics recorded by our hospitals and confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

No hospital in Massachusetts can deliver great care without flexibility and well-rounded care teams. Staffing in our hospitals is based on the unique needs of each patient, the specific abilities of each unit, and the contributions of a wide array of clinicians. Rigid ratios, which are not backed by science, take this essential flexibility away from our caregivers.

Staffing ratios have been rejected on several fronts: first by the legislature, where bills to enact them statewide have fallen short for almost two decades, and then by Massachusetts voters, who in 2018 rejected the MNA’s ratio ballot question by a margin of greater than two-to-one. Studies by both a private research firm and the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission found that ratios would cost hospitals more than $900 million in additional costs each year, an especially severe blow to hospitals still struggling to recover from pandemic-related deficits.

Ratios would have a very real impact on patient care: they would prevent nurses from using their clinical expertise, cause emergency room times to increase, and pull nurses away from crucial settings like behavioral health and senior care. They would also stand to impact the range of services hospitals are able to provide and result in higher costs for patients. That’s why ratios were opposed by a broad coalition of dozens of leading healthcare organizations, including seven nursing associations.

Rather than fixate on rigid numbers that are not at all practical for the function of our healthcare system as we emerge from the pandemic, the conversation should instead be focused on staffing solutions that are feasible and ensure optimal patient safety.

MHA is proud to represent a healthcare community that holds itself to the highest possible standards, and we will continue to defend our providers in the face of misleading claims or measures that would weaken the care they deliver to their communities.

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About Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association
The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) serves as the unified voice for Massachusetts hospitals and healthcare providers. Founded in 1936, MHA represents over 100 hospitals, healthcare partners, and patients across the state. Through advocacy, education, and collaboration, MHA’s mission is to improve the overall health of the commonwealth and support providers’ efforts to offer high-quality, affordable, and accessible care. For further information about MHA, please visit https://www.mhalink.org/ or contact communications@mhalink.org.