Along with a complaint to the state and the filing of an unfair labor practice, nurses at Quincy Medical Center announced Tuesday that they will stage a one-day strike over what they say is the hospital’s decision to close a 40-bed surgical unit.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association said a vote turned out 90 percent of members in the union, with 200 supporting a strike.
The vote gives authority to the nurses’ elected bargaining committee to schedule a strike. The hospital will have 10 days notice before a strike can occur.
“The public needs to know how worried we are, that we’ve been telling management we don’t consider this situation to be safe, and they have been refusing to discuss the issue with us for a month,” said Stacey McEachern, a nurse in the emergency department.
According to the union, the surgical unit closure, which Steward Health Care officials have not confirmed, was initiated on Feb. 17.
Nurses say the change has resulted in patients being boarded in the hospital’s emergency department. Union officials have also said that the elimination of the surgical unit is part of a decision to reduce staff by 30 nurses.
Hospital officials could not be reached immediately to comment on the strike vote. On Monday, Steward officials would not confirm if there is an overall reduction in staffing, but said that Quincy Medical Center currently has 20 open positions for nurses.
Hospital officials also have said there is adequate room for patients, and that the hospital is merely shifting priorities.
Nurses say they are at the end of their patience, and that they were pressing for the hospital to hire more nurses well before the announcement of another reduction.
“At a time when we already lacked the staff needed to provide the care our patients deserve, Steward has inflamed the situation by closing a unit that we desperately need,” said Paula Ryan, a nurse at the hospital and chair of the MNA local bargaining unit. “What is worse, they made this decision without fulfilling their obligation to meet with us and to ensure we had a staffing plan in place to ensure the safety of our patients.”
In response, nurses say they have filed more than 150 written reports of unsafe conditions at the hospital. On March 15, the union filed a report with the Department of Public Health, citing unsafe patient care conditions.
The union says they are additionally filing an unfair labor practice charge against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board due to management’s decision not to negotiate with the staff over staffing and other issues.
“Our members have had enough,” Ryan said. “We have attempted to negotiate for months with management. We have presented official reports; we have told them we are worried that there are immanent risks of negative patient outcomes. They have refused to respond except to say that this is a financial decision.”