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Nurses at Massachusetts hospital walk off the job

March 8, 2021 GMT
Mary Beth Baca, a registered nurse of Douglas, Mass., and other nurses gather outside Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., as a strike begins Monday, March 8, 2021. Baca has been a nurse at Saint Vincent Hospital for 38 years. This is her second time on strike. (Rick Cinclair/Worcester Telegram & Gazette via AP)
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Mary Beth Baca, a registered nurse of Douglas, Mass., and other nurses gather outside Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., as a strike begins Monday, March 8, 2021. Baca has been a nurse at Saint Vincent Hospital for 38 years. This is her second time on strike. (Rick Cinclair/Worcester Telegram & Gazette via AP)
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Mary Beth Baca, a registered nurse of Douglas, Mass., and other nurses gather outside Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., as a strike begins Monday, March 8, 2021. Baca has been a nurse at Saint Vincent Hospital for 38 years. This is her second time on strike. (Rick Cinclair/Worcester Telegram & Gazette via AP)

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Hundreds of nurses at a Massachusetts hospital walked off the job on Monday morning after failing to reach an agreement with management over staffing levels.

Nurses and their supporters gathered outside St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester at dawn holding signs that said “Safe Staffing Now” and “Picketing for our Patients and our Community.”

The strike started after negotiations with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, which owns the hospital, broke down.

“We are sad to see that Tenet holds so little value for our patients, yet we are resolved to do whatever it takes for as long as it take to protect our patients, as it is safer to strike now than allow Tenet to continue endangering our patients every day on every shift,” nurse Marlena Pellegrino, co-chair of the local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in a statement.

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The hospital has about 800 nurses.

St. Vincent Hospital management has said that striking during a pandemic is irresponsible, but in a statement Monday said “qualified replacement nurses” who are already fully orientated and trained are “already at the bedside providing high quality care.”

Carolyn Jackson, St. Vincent’s CEO, also said in the statement that the hospital remains hopeful it can reach a deal with the nurses.

The sides have been negotiating for about two years and the hospital’s latest contract offer includes what it calls “substantial” pay raises for nurses.

St. Vincent nurses say they are required to care for five patients at a time, a difficult task with COVID-19 precautions and care requirements, while other hospitals have a limit of four patients per nurse.