Berkshire Medical Center nurses go on 24 hour strike

Berkshire Medical Center Nurses go on 24 hour strike (WRGB)

PITTSFIELD, MA (WRGB) - Nurses at Berkshire Medical Center are going on a 24 hour strike Tuesday. They are fighting for safe staffing and patient safety.

Nurses say there aren't enough nurses on hand to give their patients quality, or safe, care.

"We can't spend as much time with each patient as we want, and we're working longer hours than our commitment is." Amber Vanbramer, a Registered Nurse and member of the Bargaining Committee at Berkshire Medical Center, said.

"I've been in situations that have been unsafe where I needed additional help and resources, and when you go to administration, their answer almost always is 'well we don't have anyone'." Mark Brodeur, a Registered Nurse said.

There are nearly 800 nurses at Berkshire Medical Center, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The union says they've been trying to negotiate with hospital management for about a year now. They say their concerns have not been addressed.

"I think if this was a money issue I think we would have settled a long time ago, but we don't want that, we want safer patient staffing." Vanbramer said.

Berkshire Health Systems released a statement in response to the strike saying:

"We are disappointed that the union representing Registered Nurses at Berkshire Medical Center has chosen to go on strike against the hospital. We have held nearly 30 negotiation sessions with the MNA in the past year, and, responding to the union’s core demands, have offered the union a fair and generous contract proposal that includes a 10% salary increase over three years, the best health coverage in the region with little or no co-pays, a staffing plan that actively engages the union nurses in staffing decision-making and many other incentives. The union’s action today and over the next four days is part of the MNA’s statewide political campaign to promote their staffing ratio ballot initiative, as evidenced by previous walk-outs at both Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Springfield and Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Berkshire Medical Center is fully prepared for this labor action, and we continue to provide all services, uninterrupted. We have contracted with a replacement nursing firm that has provided nearly 250 highly skilled, fully licensed Registered Nurses, who come from all over the country and have a wide range of clinical experience and expertise. Our community counts on BMC for its healthcare services, and we ensure that access to all of our facilities will be unimpeded throughout the five day action."

Berkshire Medical Center has also announced it will lock out the nurses and prevent them for working for four days, as a consequence of the strike, and instead will work with replacement nurses.

The nurses say they hope the strike gets the message across, so they can get back to the bargaining table and resolve the concerns soon.

"We have to make a stand for anything that's important." Brodeur said. "Out patients, the most vulnerable people in our community, are here in this hospital and they need us to take care of them."

The strike is expected to run from 7:00 a.m. Tuesday to 7:00 a.m. Wednesday.

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