Five doctors who run departments at Saint Vincent Hospital are calling on Governor Charlie Baker to intervene in the monthslong dispute between the Worcester hospital and the union representing hundreds of nurses who have been on strike since March.
The physicians issued a letter to the governor Wednesday criticizing the Massachusetts Nurses Association for “falsely claiming a need for ‘safe staffing’” at the hospital and for going on strike in the midst of a pandemic.
“As we face yet another COVID-19 surge and overflowing hospital emergency rooms across the state, we are compelled to ask for your intervention in this public health crisis that is threatening the health and wellness of your constituents,“ the physicians wrote in the letter.
The call on Baker to step in comes as negotiations between the hospital and the union have dragged into their sixth month with no clear resolution in sight. On Aug. 5, the hospital presented what it called its “last, best, and final offer” to the nurses, who are seeking an increase in staffing levels.
The letter was signed by Dr. George Abraham, chief of medicine; Dr. David Bader, director of radiology and a board member with the hospital; Dr. Michael Burns, chief of emergency medicine; Dr. Leon Josephs, chief of surgery and board member; and Dr. Michele Sinopoli, chief of obstetrics and gynecology.
“We . . . are speaking out and going on the record that the current strike led by the MNA is directly preventing our patients from accessing quality health care in Central Massachusetts during a global pandemic, and putting us all at risk,” they wrote.
The doctors had not received a response to their letter as of Saturday afternoon, Abraham said.
Worcester reported 317 new cases of COVID-19 between July 25 and Aug. 7, according to data released by the state Thursday, an increase from the 161 cases reported between July 11 and July 24.
Since the strike, Saint Vincent’s Hospital has employed temporary nurses and cut services, including 25 percent of its critical care beds and half of its beds for patients with psychiatric illness. Last weekend, the hospital announced it had hired more than 100 replacement nurses to fill the roles vacated since the beginning of the strike.
The hospital notified the Department of Public Health on July 28 that it planned to scale back services beginning Aug. 2, state health officials said. The department is reviewing the hospital’s changes to determine the impact on its patients, officials said.
“The Department of Public Health’s focus throughout the continuing strike is ensuring that Saint Vincent Hospital meets its obligations to provide safe, efficient, high-quality health care for its patients,” Katheleen Conti, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The department has been regularly monitoring the care provided to patients and has conducted numerous onsite visits to assess their care.”
The statement came in response to a Globe inquiry sent to Baker’s office seeking his comment on the physicians’ request that he intervene in the negotiations. Another message seeking Baker’s response was not returned.
About 700 nurses have been on strike since March 8 and continue to picket outside the Worcester hospital.
“The nurses are anxious to get back in the building as soon as possible to care for their patients and their community and are working with the federal mediator to move the process towards an equitable resolution to end the strike,” said David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
Priyanka Dayal McCluskey of the Globe staff contributed to this report.