Days Before Tufts Nursing Strike, Tensions Run High

The hospital and its nurses have yet to reach an agreement.

Tufts Medical Center

Photo by Alex Lau

UPDATED, July 11, 5:15 p.m.: Tufts nurses and hospital administrators have yet to reach a compromise, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). Spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson says MNA nurses submitted an off-the-record proposal including “some concessions on the part of the nurses, as well as opportunities for the hospital to save millions of dollars in pension-related costs,” at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and are awaiting the hospital’s response.

Original story:

Less than 48 hours before 1,200 Tufts Medical Center nurses plan to strike, tensions are running high.

During a press conference Monday, Tufts officials spoke harshly of the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s requests for additional money, while also assuring patients and the public that the hospital would remain fully operational during a labor stoppage.

“The union believes it can hold Tufts Medical Center hostage for more money—money we don’t have,” Tufts CEO Michael Wagner said during the press conference.

Chief Nursing Officer Terry Hudson-Jinks also claimed the MNA has been threatening nurses who do not want to strike. (The MNA denied this charge on Twitter.) “We wouldn’t believe it if we hadn’t seen it personally,” she said. “[There’s] no place for that in healthcare.”

Meanwhile, the MNA released a statement last week criticizing Tufts’ plan to bring in temporary nurses in the event of a strike.

“There is no way that nurses outside of this facility, who have never worked in this hospital, can step in and provide safe patient care to our patients,” OR nurse and bargaining unit co-chair Mary Havlicek Cornacchia says in the statement. “We are appalled that our administration wants to force a strike and lockout of our dedicated staff, and to do so, would subject our patients to such substandard care.”

The next day, Tufts responded with a statement of its own.

“They proclaim to be patient safety advocates, yet they have called on our nurses to walk out on patients,” it reads. “While we hope the union decides to take our offer seriously and truly act in the best interest of both our nurses and our patients, we are ready to provide top quality care [this] week and always.”

A final attempt at compromise is scheduled for Tuesday; if it fails, nurses will strike for 24 hours beginning Wednesday morning, and Tufts will bar them from returning for an additional four days. Both sides have said they’re willing to negotiate in hopes of avoiding a strike, but the atmosphere in the bargaining room looks likely to be turbulent.