Press Release

Machias nurses and technicians at Down East Community Hospital to hold rallies for patient safety

Four nurses insid hospital. Two sitting, two standing.

RNs and health care workers urge management to settle a fair contract that supports the community

Union nurses and technicians at Down East Community Hospital (DECH) in Machias, Maine, will hold rallies on Friday, Jan. 26 and on Saturday, Jan. 27 to demand management address patient safety, chronic short staffing, and staff retention, announced Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (MSNA/NNOC) today.

DECH nurses and technicians have been negotiating since September 2023 for a new contract. Key issues still need to be addressed. The nurses’ and technicians' contracts expired on Oct. 18, 2023.

MSNA represents registered nurses and technicians at DECH. Technicians include certified surgical technicians, medical lab technologists/technicians, and cardiopulmonary and imaging technologists.

“What the nurses and technicians want most is for our community to be cared for,” said Berta Alley, an RN in the infusion clinic and DECH chief nurse representative and negotiator, “But the last couple of years have been an absolute challenge. We want to give patients the care our community deserves.” 

“Nurses signed up to provide top care to our patients,” said Kirsti Simmons, RN in the emergency room and DECH negotiator, “When you have too many patients to provide optimal care, there is a real moral injury that drives nurses away from the hospital setting and hurts the morale of nurses who remain. We’ve all seen so many fellow nurses leave because of the unsafe working environment.”

  • Who: Registered nurses and technicians at Down East Community Hospital 
  • What: Two rallies for patient safety and a fair contract
  • When: Friday, Jan. 26, 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and
    • Saturday, Jan. 27, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Where: 97 Main St., Machias on Friday, Jan. 26
    • Bad Little Falls bridge, Machias on Saturday, Jan. 27

“These issues can and must be addressed by retaining nurses, attracting nurses back into the hospital, and making sure the hospital is staffing appropriately,” said Simmons. “There is no nursing shortage, but there is a shortage of nurses who are willing to work under current conditions. The same environment that allows nurses to provide optimal patient care is also the environment that nurses want to come to work in.”

According to data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 12,000 nurses with active licenses in Maine were NOT working as RNs in 2022. More data and information debunking the nurse “shortage” myth can be found here.

“We’ve had numerous vacancies go unfilled, causing us to work short through the pandemic while at the same time treating sicker patients,” said Alley.  “This has left us scrambling to provide basic care and created safety issues for patients and staff.”

“Because of these vacancies, the hospital has had to use a lot of travel nurses,” said Alley.  “Travelers just don’t know our patients and our facility and they aren’t committed to our community. The hospital should invest in permanent staff instead of draining resources to pay for temporary staff.”

“The union has really focused on the most critical issues in terms of staffing,” said Alley.  “What we have proposed is very reasonable and attainable and would go a long way to providing the best patient care possible. We urge the hospital to stop stalling and reach a deal now to make sure we can recruit and retain staff to provide the best possible care to our community.”

Maine State Nurses Association is part of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, representing 4,000 nurses and other caregivers from Portland to Fort Kent. NNOC is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing labor union of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide.