Tufts Medical CEO quote inflames negotiations

Michael Wagner, the CEO of Tufts Medical Center, is trying to walk back controversial comments he made about nurse staffing levels in a bid to get deadlocked contract negotiations with his hospital’s nurses back on track.

After 18 months of negotiation, the hospital and its nurses have largely resolved differences over wages and retirement benefits. But the two sides remain far apart on an issue important to the Massachusetts Nurses Association — nurse staffing levels.

The union favors minimum nurse staffing levels in hospital units, while administrators want more flexibility in assigning employees. The two sides have been trying to find common ground, kicking around proposals to create special teams of nurses to handle IVs and code responses.

According to the Boston Globe, the negotiations have been hampered by ill will over comments Wagner made to CommonWealth minimizing the connection between quality care and minimum nurse-patient ratios. “We have spent a lot of time developing an evidence-based practice in patient care,” Wagner said. “Nurses are in the middle of all that, but to say that quality of care is dependent on the number of nurses is so monochromatic, so incorrect. Patient care quality has nothing to do with the number of nurses. To connect the two is moronic.”

Wagner made his comment in July, when the 1,200 nurses at Tufts Medical Center staged a one-day walkout, but the story in CommonWealth didn’t appear until October. The timing soured ongoing talks between the nurses and the hospital, and prompted Wagner to apologize in an email to nurses saying his quote was taken out of context. He said his quote was directed at the idea of incorporating rigid nurse staffing levels into state law, an approach favored by the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the focus of the CommonWealth article, and not at nurse staffing in general.

“Nurse staffing is critical to the Medical Center’s mission of providing high quality care,” Wagner said in his email. “I didn’t do a good job of articulating that in the CommonWealth article. I apologize for that.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

The House is pushing criminal justice reform legislation that key advisor Roderick Ireland calls a “reform bill for the real world.” Ireland, the former chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, was brought in by House Speaker Robert DeLeo to advise on the legislation. (State House News)

Gov. Charlie Baker resurrects a hate crimes panel and puts Josh Kraft, president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Daniel Bennett, the secretary of public safety and security, in charge. (Salem News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Sudbury officials are appealing the dismissal of a suit seeking to block a Chapter 40B development on a former town-owned land, an action a Land Court judge said was “wholly unjustifiable.” (MetroWest Daily News)

A Bridgewater town councilor has proposed an ordinance to ban the sale of tobacco. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Air Force officials admitted they never entered into a national criminal database a domestic violence court martial against the man who killed 26 people in Texas Sunday, which would have prevented him from buying the assault weapon he used in the slaughter. (New York Times)

Congress has shown little interest in significant gun control legislation, but at the same time the National Rifle Association is not getting a lot of traction these days in efforts to push its gun-rights agenda further. (Boston Globe) In a grimly familiar lament, a Globe editorial says there is no reason why the country can’t address both the issue of mental illness and gun control. Peter Gelzinis rips President Trump’s NRA-inspired deflection away from any talk of gun laws, offered up from Japan, “where gun deaths are practically nonexistent.” (Boston Herald)

Accused sexual predator Harvey Weinstein allegedly hired private detectives, lawyers, and former Mossad operatives in an effort to kill stories set for publication in the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine and to discredit one of his most vocal victims, actress Rose McGowan. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The Democratic establishment — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, US Rep. Niki Tsongas, and Attorney General Maura Healeycampaigned for Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera over the weekend in his fight against former mayor William Lantigua. (Eagle-Tribune)

The New Jersey Education Association is going all-out to defeat the president of the Senate, a Democrat, in what is likely to be the most expensive state legislative race ever. (Governing)

Town Meeting in Dracut voted 102-92 against a temporary moratorium on marijuana sales. (Lowell Sun)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Brian Watts took second place in a Halloween costume contest at his employer, Ipswich Ale Brewery in Ipswich. But his finish was overshadowed by outrage over his portrayal of rapper Biggie Smalls, complete with blackface. Watts was suspended without pay and will undergo sensitivity training, the company said.

Sources say 21st Century Fox held some talks about selling most of the company to Disney Co. (CNBC)

The owner of the small Shift Eco-Boutique shop in Hyannis has filed suit for trademark infringement against Boston-based In The Pink stores after the upscale retailer changed the name of two of its Cape Cod stores to Shift. (Cape Cod Times)

The Massachusetts House passed a bill allowing pub brewers to sell their beer for off-premises consumption on Sundays and holidays. (State House News Service)

EDUCATION

An Eagle-Tribune editorial lauds the Metropolitan Area Planning Council for issuing a report that upends the conventional wisdom that adding housing to a community attracts more families with children who burden the local schools. In fact, the report says, school populations are flat or declining where housing growth has been strong.

Two employees at the Springfield Public Day Elementary School are suspended with pay as officials investigate allegations that the workers injured children in their care. (MassLive)

Harvard honors Elton John for his efforts to fight HIV and AIDS. (Associated Press)

Some students at Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy want Anthony Scaramucci, who served briefly as President Trump’s communications director, booted off the school’s advisory board. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Neighborhood Health Plan comes up with a novel approach to improving health care, offering to waive copays for treatments and drugs that reduce the risk of patients ending up in the hospital. (Boston Globe)

Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest employer, urges its employees to speak out against a Senate bill that could end up penalizing Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Planning for the future isn’t easy at the MBTA, where population growth is no longer in sync with ridership growth. (CommonWealth)

The T is nearing its target of $1 billion a year in capital spending. (CommonWealth)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren kinda, sorta comes out in favor of the North-South Rail Link. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Entergy is opposing a bill that would levy an annual $25 million fee against the company to cover costs if its Pilgrim nuclear power plant is not decommissioned within five years of its scheduled shutdown in 2019. (State House News Service)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A man charged with an October murder in Somerville was free at the time because earlier charges against him were dropped as part of the Annie Dookhan drug lab scandal. (Boston Herald)

Boston minister Eugene Rivers and a group of other black clergy met yesterday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Indianapolis for what Rivers calls an “icebreaker meeting” in search of common ground in the quest to combat urban crime and violence. (Boston Herald)