St. Vincent Hospital nurses walk the picket line outside the hospital in Worcester, Mass., Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Credit: Rick Sinclair / Worcester Telegram & Gazette via AP

WORCESTER, Massachusetts — Five top doctors at a Massachusetts hospital where nurses have been on strike for longer than five months have asked Gov. Charlie Baker to intervene in a letter that also sharply criticizes the nurses’ union.

“As we face yet another COVID-19 surge and overflowing hospital emergency rooms across the state, we are compelled to ask for your intervention in this public health crisis that is threatening the health and wellness of your constituents,” the five department heads at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester said in the letter Thursday.

The nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association union, have been on strike since March 8 seeking better nurse-to-patient staffing ratios at the hospital owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare.

The letter says the nurses’ union is “falsely claiming a need for ‘safe staffing’ at a hospital where multiple independent third parties have proven that its staffing is better than most hospitals in our state.”

The letter was signed by Dr. George Abraham, chief of medicine; Dr. David Bader, director of radiology and a board member with the hospital; Dr. Michael Burns, chief of emergency medicine; Dr. Leon Josephs, chief of surgery and board member; and Dr. Michele Sinopoli, chief of obstetrics and gynecology.

The latest negotiations broke down last week when St. Vincent management presented what they called their “last, best and final” offer. The union promptly criticized it as an “unsatisfactory ultimatum.”

The state Department of Public Health, answering on behalf of the governor’s office, said it is monitoring the strike to ensure that the hospital — which has reduced capacity and scaled back some services because of the strike — continues to provide “safe, efficient, high-quality” care.

The union in response to the doctors’ letter said “the nurses are anxious to get back in the building as soon as possible to care for their patients and their community and are working with the federal mediator to move the process towards a resolution to end the strike.”