More than 1,000 nurses at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s University Campus in Worcester will go on strike on Thursday. That’s after the latest negotiation session on Monday failed to resolve a contract dispute between nurses and hospital officials. The last time UMass Memorial’s Nurses were on the picket line in 2006, the issue was pensions. That’s also now an issue they have yet to agree on with hospital officials, along with vacation time, and health insurance. But Margaret McLoughlin — co-chair of the nurses bargaining unit — says increased staffing is the crux of this contract. She says many of the hospital’s nurses are assigned to six or seven patients at a time, which isn’t safe in a level one trauma center.
“We have very sick patients. Hospitals from outside sending patients here because they’re so sick. So we have given them a ratio. We feel that five patients to one nurse is adequate and that is where we want to be to be able to give our patients the right care.”
The hospital’s says last best offer included some staffing improvements, but McLoughlin says it allowed for high nurse-to-patient ratios in certain units like in-patient psychiatry. She says that’s often one of the most dangerous parts of the hospital. UMass Memorial officials declined to comment for this story, but told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette last week, increasing staff as much as nurses are requesting could cost up to forty million dollars. In a statement, Hospital officials said they’ve transferred four-million dollars to a staffing agency to pay for temporary nurses during the strike — money they say will be eliminated from a future deal. The nurses will begin their twenty-four hour strike at 6 AM on Thursday.