Nurses locked out at Berkshire Medical Center

October 04, 2017 01:46 PM

There's still no deal between nurses and the hospital in the Berkshires. As expected, the one-day strike became a lockout on Wednesday morning. Nurses are back on the sidewalk for the next few days.

Security guards had cameras, some patients waved from the windows, but the nurses were turned back.

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Additionally, NewsChannel 13 spoke exclusively with the hospital's CEO.

Despite being told there would be a lockout after their 24-hour strike, nurses tried to return to work Wednesday morning at Berkshire Medical Center. Instead, they were turned away by management.

For five minutes, they chanted. Then slowly, security moved them back to the picket line on the sidewalk.

"Today was our scheduled day to work. We want to report to work, take care of our patients. They briefly handed us the letter that they sent to us last week stating they would not let us in today," said Amber VanBramer, an RN for six years.

"We did this action so that we could have a voice. We deserve to have a voice for ourselves and our patients," said Mark Brodeur another RN.

Shortly after the strike officially became a lockout, NewsChannel 13 reached out to the hospital again, asking for a statement. Instead of a statement, we actually spoke with the CEO.

"We like it a lot better when our nurses are inside, not outside, but that's not the hand we're dealt right now," said David Phelps.

He has led Berkshire Medical for 25 years. He pointed out this is the third strike by the Massachusetts Nurses Association in the past four months in the commonwealth.

"Our choice is to close for a day, or make a five-day commitment to the company that provides the replacement nurses. So we have no choice but to do what we've done today," said Phelps. "I consider it to be a lockout and a work stoppage, caused by their strike."

The impasse remains over staffing levels, with the nurses saying it's too low. The hospital says it has been recognized nationally for patient care.

"This is about safe staffing and when you're doing the right thing, you come up with the energy to do it," said Barbara Connor, another striking RN.

"The good news is operations are normal," said Phelps.

The nurses can report back to work 7 a.m. Sunday morning. As for back at the bargaining table, that does not look like it will be Monday morning.


WNYT Staff

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