By Staff

WORCESTER (CBS) – Hundreds of nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester went on strike Monday morning to push back against what they say is unsafe staffing.

The nurses walked out at 6 a.m.

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“We are out here this morning for one reason and that reason is the unsafe conditions in this building, Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester,” nurse Marie Ritacco told WBZ-TV.

“I’ve been a nurse here for 13 years as an emergency nurse. And we’ve seen no increase in staffing in that time,” said Beckett Augat.

The nurses say they’ve filed more than 600 complaints about the issue in the last year.

In a statement Monday, the hospital said staffing guidelines there “are better than most other hospitals in Massachusetts and have improved over time.”

“We have tried, for well over 17 months to get them to come to the table and discuss staffing. We feel like if we don’t do it know, when are we going to do it? I mean, we tried to do it through the appropriate channels, through negotiation and we can’t. We have to bring the message out to the street and the last thing we can do is withhold our labor,” Ritacco said.

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Saint Vincent, which is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, called the strike “irresponsible” in the middle of a pandemic.

“This strike will only exacerbate divisiveness during a critical stage of the COVID-19 pandemic when we should be coming together to care for our patients and community,” the hospital said in a statement.

“While we respect the nurses’ right to strike, patients and their loved ones can be assured that our patients will continue to be cared for by qualified replacement registered nurses during this strike action and our hospital will be operational during this time.”

Nurses went on strike at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester early Monday. (WBZ-TV)

The nurses said their strike will last all day to midnight and continue each day until an agreement is reached.

“This is about the safety of our patients.” said nurse Marlena Pellegrino, the co-chair of the local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “People’s lives are in danger every day.”

“We are having a staffing crisis in that building. We have too few bedside nurses to take care of our patients. Our patients are at risk every day. We are not able to provide medications on time,” she told WBZ-TV.

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“We are not going to go back into that building until there is safe staffing in our contract.” Staff