Baystate Franklin president speaks out on negotiations with nurses

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Cindy Russo.

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/3/2017 11:37:37 PM

GREENFIELD — The president of Baystate Franklin Medical Center made it clear that the hospital is not breaking any laws concerning its nurse staffing.

Cindy Russo, who is finishing her first year as president of the Greenfield hospital that is owned by Baystate Health in Springfield, spoke with The Recorder about the ongoing negotiations with the nurses’ union that has resulted in labor charges being filed and the authorization for a one-day strike.

Russo discussed current allegations made by the local Massachusetts Nurses Association chapter. She detailed how she and her administration are addressing the nurses’ staffing concerns — which the nurses claim include overworking them and requesting for them to work on their time off — by hiring additional nurses to “float” and work across the hospital.

“We continue to move forward and bargain in good faith at the table with scheduling dates, having discussions around both parties’ proposals and feel that we will continue forward in that fashion,” Russo said.


The nurses want their prospective contract to say how many nurses are needed to safely staff their particular unit in the hospital. The emergency department sees about 26,000 patients a year, Russo said.

The nurses want to institute “nursing ratios” that state how many nurses are needed per patient at all times, so they can safely serve the patient.

The hospital is not in favor of these ratios, which it says do not achieve safety of its patients on any given day in the best possible way.

Ratios, Russo says, would not properly account for seasonal changes in how many people come to the hospital and the odd day that 10 people come in to have a baby instead of four.

“You can’t always predict when a laboring mother would be coming in the door, so we staff based on what our experience has been,” Russo said.

Instead, the hospital uses a formula to figure out the average number of patients to a particular unit, calculating the average amount of time and staff needed per patient. Sometimes more people come in than the average, which can require the hospital to ask for more hours from its staff.

“At those times, we need to ask our staff to stay additional, but never to a point where it’s unsafe based on the fact where they’ve worked so many hours in a row,” Russo said.

The nurses union has said that nurses are also asked to work too many hours in a row, which can bring their level of care to an unsatisfactory level.

Russo explained that as a nurse, which is how she started her career, there is a feeling of never being able to do enough in the time you have. The president says there is a distinction between feeling the need to do more and being overworked.

“As an organization here, do I feel that our staff is overworked? That’s not my opinion.”

Recently, Baystate Franklin Medical Center posted positions for a registered nurse to “float.” The nurse will work across units. As of Monday, there are three of these positions posted online, two of them with 32 hours a week and the other 24 hours a week. The position will be a part of a “float pool” that will be assigned to a particular department at the beginning of each shift. Russo said this is a part of the ongoing improvements to the hospital.

Community concerns

The nurses union has pointed to the salaries of the Baystate Health executives, three of which surpass $1 million according to the nonprofit’s most recent tax releases from 2014. The union says this is an indicator that the hospital has enough money to address short staffing concerns.

“Just like we want to make sure our nurses are competent to do their job, it’s important for the sustainability of this organization to have competent and skilled administrators,” Russo said. “If you go out to market, that’s what those jobs demand.”

The president of the Greenfield hospital said she values heading a facility that is both a local good and a place with the resources of a bigger organization.

With the financial backing of Baystate Health, Russo points to the ability to hire floating nurses and freelancing nurses, who come to the hospital under their own contracts for the period while the hospital tries to hire a permanent employee. The president points to renovations to the hospital, including a $26 million surgery center that opened last June; awards won and quality physicians working there.


Nurses also would like another security officer, citing safety concerns of its night staff.

Russo said that the hospital is in negotiations directly with the security staff, who formed Baystate Franklin Security Officers Union in February of 2017.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:
413-772-0261, ext. 264


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy