Updated Tuesday at 7:16 a.m.
After a long nine-month strike, nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester voted Monday to ratify a new contract and get back to work at the hospital.
The nurses approved the contract Monday night in a 487–9 vote, the Massachusetts Nurses Association announced Monday night, following the tentative agreement with Tenet Healthcare last month.
Marlena Pellegrino, a nurse at St. Vincent and a co-chair of the St. Vincent nurses’ bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, sounded excited as the votes came in Monday night.
“It’s been a long, hard-fought battle and we are looking forward to an overwhelming 'yes' vote to our ratification, which will end this chapter of our journey and get us back to the bedside for our next chapter of our journey to start caring for our patients where we want to be,” she said. “At the bedside, giving care, and return to our home and put this part of our battle behind us.”
Pellegrino said that it will be a few weeks before nurses return to work as the hospital sends out recall letters and nurses respond.
The agreement between the MNA and the hospital resolved a key sticking point in negotiations, which had been holding up processes since August, according to the union: it allows the striking nurses to return to their former positions while also allowing the hospital to retain the replacement nurses.
A hospital spokesperson told GBH News that a greater need for nurses during the winter and COVID spikes helped to persuade leaders to let the striking nurses back.
In a statement, the spokesperson wrote that the hospital is pleased that the nurses decided to bring the strike to an end by ratifying the contract.
"We are ready to welcome back every nurse who chooses to return to Saint Vincent, and we have plans in place to make that process as smooth as possible," the statement read.
At this time, the hospital expects all returning nurses to be back at St. Vincent by January 22.
Nurse and union organizer Dominique Muldoon told GBH News it was "surreal" that the nurses would be finally returning to the hospital, adding that they were excited to get back to work.
“We've been out for so long,” she said. “You know, we have really worked very hard and suffered a lot to get this good agreement.”
Nurses will now be able to get back to work at St. Vincent at a time when they may be needed most as COVID-19 cases climb to all-time highs across the state.
Pellegrino said that’s extremely important to her and her colleagues, who have been working at other hospitals and vaccine clinics during the strike. Now, she says, the healing process needs to start.
“We have achieved the goals that we’ve set out to achieve. Our patients will be better taken care of," she said. "We have stood up for our profession, we have stood up for our own colleagues and we’ve set a standard that you can advocate and maintain your integrity, stand up for your principles and do the right thing.”
GBH News’ Tori Bedford contributed to this story.