More than 100 replacement nurses have been hired at Worcester’s St. Vincent Hospital amid a nurses’ strike now entering its sixth month, hospital officials said Sunday.
“Saint Vincent must take responsible action and hire as many nurses as possible to maintain access to ensure core services, as COVID numbers increase and the cooler weather approaches,” the hospital said in a statement, adding that it will post more open positions in the coming days.
Citing a calendar of picket-line events extending back into December, the hospital claimed the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents the 700 nurses on strike, has “minimal interest or intention to end the strike.”
The nurses, who have been on strike since March 8, are seeking staffing increases at the hospital, which is owned by Tenet Healthcare.
David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the union, said he does not believe the hospital has hired any replacement nurses. He said the hospital made a similar claim in May and did not respond when the union asked for a list of the new hires, an allegation that was denied by a hospital spokesman Sunday night.
“Tenet has spent in excess of $100 million to force and prolong this strike to avoid accountability for providing the level of care patients of Worcester expect and deserve,” Schildmeier said in an e-mail. “They did so after taking $2.6 billion in taxpayer supported pandemic funding, and instead of using those funds to serve their community during the worst public health crisis in our nation’s history, they cut staff and endangered patients every single day, which is why the nurses went on strike.”
Matthew Clyburn, a spokesman for St. Vincent Hospital, said the union’s claim is a mischaracterization of the hospital’s announcement in May that it would seek to replace the nurses.
“The ‘threat’ — I’m using their word — that they’re talking about is we announced in May that we were going to begin the process of recruiting and filling those positions,” Clyburn said. “That doesn’t happen overnight in any company. This announcement [on Sunday] is us releasing the outcome of that effort.”
Last week, the union said the federal mediator handling the negotiations had offered to move the talks to Washington, D.C., and bring the standoff before the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, after discussions ended with no clear resolution in sight.