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8 Nurses Sue St. Vincent Hospital for Firing Whistleblowers

By Tom Marino | March 22, 2024
Last Updated: March 22, 2024

WORCESTER – Eight registered nurses filed a lawsuit in Worcester Superior Court on Thursday against St. Vincent Hospital and the company that runs it, Tenet Healthcare, alleging they were wrongfully terminated.

According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), the union that represents nurses at the hospital, the lawsuit alleges the hospital fired eight nurses in violation of of MGL Ch. 149 § 187. “Health care providers; protection from retaliatory action by health care facilities,” often called a Massachusetts Whistleblower Law. The nurses say they were fired in retaliation for reporting unsafe and illegal conduct and condition within the hospital.

The law says “A health care facility shall not refuse to hire, terminate a contractual agreement with or take any retaliatory action against a health care provider because the health care provider […] discloses or threatens to disclose to a manager or to a public body an activity, policy or practice of the health care facility or of another health care facility with whom the health care provider’s health care facility has a business relationship, that the health care provider reasonably believes is in violation of a law or rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to law or violation of professional standards of practice which the health care provider reasonably believes poses a risk to public health.”

MNA also says the lawsuit cites state regulations that say, “registered nurses bear full responsibility for the quality of nursing care he or she provides to individuals or groups.” The same regulations also mandate that nurses, including nurses who are managers, “shall not engage in any conduct that fails to adhere to accepted standards of nursing practice or in any behavior that is likely to have an adverse effect upon the health, safety or welfare of the public.”

Text from the complaint says:

“For over a year, there have been nursing staffing shortages in many units of SVH…This had led to ED nurses caring for far too many patients than is safe, including nurses sometimes taking up to a 20-patient assignment. Patients are often left unattended in ED hallways, left to sit in their own urine and feces, and there are severe delays in triage and care.  In addition to the ED, over the past year there has been understaffing in various other SVH units. This has caused delays in care, the inability to timely transfer patients to the proper units, unsafe care, and patients to sit for extended periods in their own feces and urine. When the plaintiff nurses objected to providing unsafe care, SVH and Tenet fired them.”

On Jan. 30, the MNA said nurses filed over 500 official reports of staffing/patient care conditions that jeopardized the safety of their patients from July through December 2023, with 102 filed in January alone.

The Boston Business Journal reported on Oct. 6 that an investigation by the Joint Commission, a national nonprofit that accredits hospitals, found that St. Vincent Hospital is out of compliance with federal standards and risks losing accreditation. On March 12, the hospital said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) found zero deficiencies in the areas of staffing and quality of care at St. Vincent.

“These nurses did everything in their power and met every obligation under their license and the law to protect their patients from harm,” said Katie Murphy, RN, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses. “These nurses, who we are referring to as ‘the St. Vincent 8,’ are true heroes and represent the canaries in the dark mine shaft that is for-profit healthcare. We believe they have an ironclad case and hope the court acts quickly to provide the justice they so rightfully deserve.”

MNA nurses launched a strike on March 8, 2021, that went on for 301 days, until Jan. 3, 2022, when MNA nurses ratified an agreement with this hospital.

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