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April 6, 2013

Nurses protest for patient care, hospital says paychecks

HAVERHILL — Nurses took to the street near Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill yesterday to call attention to what they think is an alarming trend at some local hospitals.

The nurses, all of whom are members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, say they are trying to call attention to dangerous staffing levels at local hospitals mandated by their for-profit owners Steward Health Care and Cerebus Capital Management.

“This rally is meant to be a community event, because this hospital and the work we do inside of it is a reflection of the people who live and work here,” said Kathy Renzi, a registered nurse at Merrimack Valley Hospital and co-chair of the hospital’s MNA bargaining unit. “We want the community to know that it deserves better and safer care than we can provide at this time. And, in fact, we can provide the best and safest care available … but only if (owners) Cerberus/Steward will let us do so.”

But Steward spokesman Christopher Murphy disputed those statements, saying the rally was more about paychecks than patient care.

”The quality and safety of Merrimack Valley Hospital are excellent,” Murphy said. “The MNA’s patient safety claims are wrong, their staffing ratio claims are wrong, their claims about wait times are wrong, and all this is an attempt to gain leverage at the bargaining table.”

Spokesman for MNA/NNU David Schildmeier said patients are being placed at greater risk across the entire Cerberus/Steward-owned network of hospitals as management attempts to drive down costs and raise profits at the expense of patients and the nurses needed to adequately care for them.

He said that in response to Steward’s “interested-in-the-bottom-line-only” actions, registered nurses at Merrimack Valley Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, and others have all scheduled job actions and/or community events.

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