As Nurse Strike Continues at Saint Vincent Hospital, Patients Say There's an Impact

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Nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, have been on strike for weeks, and patients say it's having an impact.

"Everything was very behind, everybody was running very ragged, nobody seemed to be on the same page," said Jenna Saad of Thompson, Connecticut.

Saad says she hadn't given much thought to the ongoing nurses strike at the hospital – until she went in there for a prescheduled surgery recently.

But Saad says what was supposed to be an outpatient procedure stretched out four days when she says replacement nurses didn't give her pain medication in a timely manner.

"It was very disheartening because I would ring my bell at the right time to get it, and then not receive it for an hour, hour and a half later, so by that time, we had to resort to the IV, and you can't go home if you're on IV medication," said Saad.

"If somebody has come to us and they have had an issue with their care, they just need to reach out and let us know," said hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson.

Jackson says while this strike has put the hospital in a challenging position, she doesn't believe patient care has suffered.

"It's true that the travel nurses don't know the hospital like our typical nurses, however they are highly skilled nurses and they’ve been able to learn quickly about our systems, as well as where things are and our processes, and they've gotten up to speed quickly," said Jackson.

But these nurses who have been walking the picket line for more than three weeks say the nurse-to-patient staffing ratios are why they went on strike in the first place.

"Five to one, six to one, it doesn't cut it anymore," said endoscopy nurse Carolyn Moore, who has been at Saint Vincent for 42 years.

"There is no longer a safety net in that hospital for our patients, and we cannot tolerate it any longer," said recovery room nurse Marie Ritacco, who's been at the hospital for 38 years.

Saad says while she had a bad experience, she doesn't blame the travel nurses for her situation.

"It felt like neglect, but I also felt bad for the nurses," said Saad. "Bbecause I knew that they were trying their best."

The nurse's union says Tenet Healthcare has spent more than $22 million since the strike began.

But the hospital says a lot of those costs would have been incurred regardless.

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