By Christina Hager

WORCESTER (CBS) – Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester say during the height of their battle with coronavirus, management is threatening to force furloughs and cut staff. “We need every registered nurse who is healthy and willing and able, to work by our sides,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN.

Negotiations broke down this week between the Massachusetts Nurses Association, known as MNA, and Tenet, the company that owns and operates St. Vincent. That prompted an email from Tenet Wednesday telling the MNA, “the hospital intends to implement measures…which will likely include mandatory furloughs…”

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“We’re very concerned about not having enough help”, said Dominique Muldoon, RN. She said she supports some of her coworkers who volunteered to be furloughed, either due to family or health concerns, but hopes others won’t be forced.

“Saint Vincent will grant requests of nurses who have asked to be furloughed and will seek additional volunteers, while ensuring we remain appropriately staffed to care for COVID-19 patients,” said spokesperson Rhiana Sherwood.

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She would not comment on whether forced furloughs are planned, but did address money concerns, even though state and federal officials have offered hospitals financial assistance. “We have been acutely impacted by the stay-at-home advisory and government orders cancelling elective procedures, which have forced us to temporarily close hospital services and units where activity is limited,” said Sherwood.

“We want to have extra hands even if it’s just to hold the hands of somebody who is scared and alone in the hospital because families can’t come in,” said Muldoon.

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With more than 200 COVID-19 patients now hospitalized in Worcester, nurses say it’s the worst time to lose those on the front lines.

Christina Hager