BEVERLY — The union representing nurses at Beverly and Addison Gilbert hospitals said Friday that it plans to hold an "informational picket" next week to call attention to staffing shortages and what it says is low pay compared to other hospitals.

The Massachusetts Nursing Association issued a press release to announce the picketing, which will take place Wednesday outside Beverly Hospital.

"We want the public to know that we're struggling to keep our patients safe because our staffing has not been where it needs to be," Sue Hall, a nurse at Addison Gilbert Hospital and co-chair of the union's bargaining committee, said in an interview. 

The union represents registered nurses at Northeast Hospital Corp., which includes Beverly Hospital, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, and the Lahey Outpatient Center in Danvers. It said the hospitals are facing "chronic understaffing" due to the departure of so many nurses. According to the union, 171 out of 781 nurses, or 22%, left the three facilities between January 2020 and April 2021.

Hall said nurses are leaving because the pay at Northeast Hospital Corp. is lower than at most other hospitals.

"I bet a bunch of them are younger people that we have trained and gotten experience and they're moving on because they want to go some place where they can get more money," she said.

The announcement comes as the union prepares to begin negotiations on a new contract this fall. Its current three-year contract expires in April 2022.

Kim Perryman, the chief nursing officer at Northeast Hospital Corp., said in a statement that the organization is "committed to establishing a fair contract that reflects our deep respect and appreciation for the critical role nurses play in providing high-quality and safe care."

"Even in the face of unprecedented challenges over the last year, our extraordinary nurses and staff have shown compassion, dedication and skill in service to our patients and our community," Perryman said.

In the press release, the Massachusetts Nursing Association said nurses are being forced to work overtime to make up for staffing shortages. Three nurses worked from 11 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. on Mother's Day because of mandatory overtime, the union said.

The union quoted one nurse as calling that situation "abuse" and "dangerous" and comparing it to "kidnapping."

The union said it wants the hospitals to "improve work/life balance" by allowing nurses the ability to increase or decrease their hours, change shifts, and convert to per diem. It also is seeking "competitive wages so other hospitals aren't pulling staff away."

The informational picket is scheduled for Wednesday, June 2, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Nurses will gather at Sohier Road and Herrick Street and then march toward Beverly Hospital, the union said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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