Nearly 800 unionized nurses at Berkshire Medical Center went on strike Tuesday morning to protest what they call inadequate staffing at the Pittsfield hospital.
The nurses staged a one-day walkout, but hospital officials have hired temporary replacement workers and plan to keep out union members for an additional four days.
“We’re just trying to work really hard to fight for patient safety,” said Mark Brodeur, a nurse and member of the bargaining team for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “We’re doing a more public action to make sure everyone is aware of what’s happening. It’s our only chance to make sure we’re heard.”
Berkshire Medical Center has not had a nurses strike since 1981. But this is the third nurses strike in Massachusetts this year. The walkout in Pittsfield follows a contentious strike at Boston’s Tufts Medical Center in July, and Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield in June.
More than 200 admitted patients were at Berkshire Medical Center on Tuesday, and hospital officials said they were not canceling any appointments or surgeries. They have hired 247 replacement nurses from a national staffing company, US Nursing Corp.
“We are surprised that the union representing Registered Nurses at BMC has chosen to go on strike against the hospital in order to support their statewide political agenda, but today we are entirely focused on providing uninterrupted care for our patients and our community,” hospital spokesman Michael Leary said in an e-mail. “All services are being provided at all of our campuses.”