Nurses Picket Anna Jaques

Tuesday March 14, 2023

NEWBURYPORT – The Massachusetts Nurses Assn. (MNA) joined city and state leaders on the picket line at Anna Jaques Hospital (AJH) Thursday afternoon, protesting for better salaries, more staff and resources at the community hospital.
Anna Jaques and the MNA have a three-year contract in place through the end of 2023. It provides for negotiated wage increases, according to the hospital.
“Your fight is our fight,” said MNA President Katie Murphy on the picket line with about 300 nurses.
Joining the nurses on the picket line between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Low Street were state Rep. Dawne Shand, D-Newburyport, City Councilors Jennie Donahue, Byron Lane and Bruce Vogel, who each called the nurses “angels.”
Nurses at Anna Jaques are the lowest paid in the Merrimack Valley, the nurses group said.
Associate Chief Nursing Officer Peter Tura, R.N., disagreed. In a statement prior to the protest, he said, “Our wages are market competitive, and we have robust programs in place to recruit, retain and support nurses and other clinical staff.”
According to the hospital, it has hired about 115 new registered nurses in the past two years. The MNA said AJH cut ties with Salem State University’s registered nursing program, resulting in the lost opportunity to recruit those nursing graduates, MNA said.
“We are currently in a staffing crisis at Anna Jaques, and it’s getting worse,” said Margaret Mirecki, RN and MNA committee member at the hospital. “We are trying to provide the highest-quality care possible to the people of this community, and we are failing. The hospital is losing and is struggling to find and keep experienced nurses. We need AJH executives to listen to us, and then to find and manage appropriate solutions.”
The hospital has a continuous shortage of key supplies and offers haphazard cat scan services. It also eliminated two key essential services in the community when it closed the pediatrics unit and renounced its trauma center designation, Mirecki said.
Anna Jaques became part of one of the state’s largest and most profitable hospital networks — Beth Israel Lahey, when Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey Health merged in 2019.
“Beth Israel and Lahey assured officials they would have more resources going to community hospitals,” Murphy said. “Instead AJH management is compromising patient care every single day by refusing to compensate nurses equal to other facilities, forcing nurses to seek employment in other facilities. That ends today.”
The cat scan services have been haphazard following a mass resignation of CT technical staff last August, Mirecki said.
“We have gone days on end without CT services, with management only offering inadequate and unrealistic alternatives that jeopardize patient care, presumably because they don’t want to admit that CT is closed,” Mirecki said. “Instead, we find out when CT is available via posted sticky notes on the department window.”
The hospital says a new CT scanner was installed Jan. 16, allowing for enhanced cardiac imaging, coronary angiograms and coronary artery calcium scoring.
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has been investigating the hospital for inaccurate paychecks that exceed a normal rate of errors, MNA said. Also, nurses at Anna Jaques have complained about having no meal breaks for shifts of 12 hours or longer.
“Management’s track record of misguided decisions is jeopardizing the safety of our patients and the health of our community,” Mirecki said. “But we’re going to fight to make our hospital the best it can be, on the picket line, in meetings with management or through the National Labor Relations Board.”

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