Some Tufts Medical Center Patients Report Discomfort With Replacement Nurses

BOSTON (CBS) — It was a routine hospital visit for Ed Lukaszewicz, but what wasn’t routine was seeing the line of nurses outside Tufts Medical Center. That’s because the approximately 1,200 nurses at Tufts Medical Center were locked out after their 24-hour strike ended Thursday morning.

“It was a little intimidating getting him in, we had trouble getting him out of the car,” said daughter-in-law Lee Lukaszewicz.

It was a nurse on the line who came to his aid, as the striking nurses say it’s still all about their patients in the midst of the strike over salaries, staffing levels and preserving pensions.

“This is a different role for all of us,” said nurse Jean Probert. “We want to be in the hospital taking care of our patients.”

Extra security at the front door assisted patients through the picket line that nurses hoped would end today.  They marched to the front door at 7:00 a.m. but were turned away.

Hospital officials say they knew in advance that replacement nurses had to be contracted for five days.

WBZ reported on July 1 that the nurses expected a lockout if they went on strike, even though striking nurse Denise Clements claimed the nurses weren’t properly informed.

“We haven’t gotten official notification of a 4-day lockout. So all of our peers are coming in for 7 a.m., hoping that cooler heads prevail and everyone get back to our patients and do what we love to do best – provide safe, skilled care,” Clements said.

Explaining the hospital’s action, Chief Nursing Officer Terry Hudson-Jinks said the hospital prepared for the strike.

“This is what we had to do to ensure the safety of our patients. They were well aware of that,” Hudson-Jinks said.

At an afternoon news conference the Head of Surgery, Dr. William Mackey, said “Our biggest surprise is that it’s been business as usual.”

Tufts Cardiologist Dr. Andrew Weintraub says that the replacement nurses are professionals.

“They performed superbly. The experience and expertise is evident the moment they stepped in. They performed in lock-step in taking care of these patients,” Weintraub said.

While many patients tell WBZ-TV that staff is helpful inside, there were bumps in the road with a replacement nurse for Joan Holske, whose fiancée had a recent stroke.

“It took her three times to figure out medications, she didn’t know the protocols and equipment. She was nice enough but it was a little uncomfortable.”

Striking nurse and Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Nurse’s Association Bargaining Unit Barbara Tiller says she’s concerned about reports of unsafe conditions.

“I’m really frustrated, we’ve heard about a lot of unsafe situations going on in there and they’re choosing to continue that,” Tiller said.

tufts nurses locked out Some Tufts Medical Center Patients Report Discomfort With Replacement Nurses

Tufts nurses on the picket line in front of the hospital. (Photo credit: WBZ-TV)

Hospital officials say they have set up a command center during the strike, and have a large support staff to help the replacement nurses. But as anxious as nurses are to get back on the job, their patients are as well.

“I want nurses that have been here a while, that know what they’re doing and know the patients coming in,” said patient Georgia Green.

Hospital officials say no further contract talks have been scheduled, and it’s unlikely they will be until after Monday when the striking nurses will be allowed back on the job.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports

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