Nurses mull strike at Brigham over security

Boston Herald | By Lindsay Kalter | Saturday, March 26, 2016

NOTHING BEING DONE: Trish Powers, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital trauma unit RN and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, says the hospital isn’t addressing serious security concerns.

Worried nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital say they could strike as early as this spring if their complaints about lax security are not addressed in the wake of a surgeon’s murder last year.

“Nurses are getting attacked and doctors are getting shot,” said Trish Powers, an RN in the hospital’s trauma unit and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “We haven’t had progress with the Brigham. They basically refuse to put anything in writing.”

Powers — who also cited this week’s bombings in Brussels as added concern — led the charge in January 2015 to increase security at the hospital after cardiac surgeon Dr. Michael Davidson was shot and killed by the son of a patient at the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.

The union hired former superintendent-in-chief of the Boston Police Department Daniel Linsky to develop a security proposal, which involved a walk-through last October. Linsky was able to access a variety of areas in the hospital — including the operating suite — without being questioned, said members of the nurses union.

Powers said the lack of security leaves staff members vulnerable to random attacks, and that nurses have been beaten and threatened with weapons. One nurse had a 10-inch hunting knife held to her throat, Powers said.

A hospital spokeswoman called Powers’ claims that weapons are routinely let in the hospital “unsubstantiated.”

About 500 to 700 of the Brigham’s 3,300 union nurses are expected to gather at Florian Hall in Dorchester Thursday to take a majority vote on whether to give notice to picket, which is the initial step before moving to a strike vote. Powers said a strike vote could come by this spring or “the beginning of the summer.”

The showdown comes after a recent meeting with federal mediators and Brigham administrators that yielded nothing in the way of security advancements, Powers said.

The union is asking the Brigham for increased training for hospital security; a minimum of one Boston police officer inside the emergency room at all times; and security drills for staff members.

A hospital spokeswoman said data shows “no increase in assaults against BWH nurses,” and that the hospital is investing $2 million in “safety and security upgrades.”

The spokeswoman also said the hospital opposes documenting security measures in a contract because it would be a safety threat in itself, and would not allow the hospital to “quickly respond to new and ever-evolving threats as changes would require negotiation with the MNA prior to implementation.”

In addition, the Brigham said it has approved the addition of a new security staff member to conduct training and drills for nursing staff.

The next meeting with hospital administrators and the federal mediator is set for April 25.

Summary: 

NOTHING BEING DONE: Trish Powers, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital trauma unit RN and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, says the hospital isn’t addressing serious security concerns.

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