WORCESTER, Mass. - After 301 days, the Saint Vincent Hospital nurses strike officially comes to an end.
Nurses cast an overwhelming vote on Monday with a final tally of 487 – 9 in favor of ratification.
A total of 502 ballots were cast, with three ballots left blank and three contested ballots.
Looking back on the nearly 10-month, history-making strike, Marlena Pellegrino, striking nurse and co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association said, "It's been a struggle. We learned a lot. There a lot of inspirations on that picket line."
After more than 43 rounds of negotiations,, nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital said they don't have any regrets.
"At the end of the day, it was the right decision." Pellegrino said. "We have no regrets. We did the right thing. "
It was the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history. The nurses said an agreement is not just a win for them, it’s a victory for healthcare and all unionized workers.
"It sends a huge message," Pellegrino said. "You can do the right thing and it can work out."
With hundreds of its nurses on the picket line, the hospital was forced to close hospital beds over the past 10 months. It added to a severe hospital bed shortage in Central Massachusetts.
"Certainly, Central Massachusetts needs more beds," Saint Vincent Hospital CEO, Carolyn Jackson, said. "We are looking forward to helping to ease emergency room department boarding and hopefully getting back to more of a normal."
Looking ahead to a new chapter for nurses and the hospital, both sides agree patient care is their top priority.
"We are professionals," Pellegrino said. "We are there to bring a sense of stability and calmness to the building."
Nurses who eventually head back to work will be side-by-side with replacement nurses and nurses who crossed the picket line.
"Our heart is open," Pellegrino said. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are coming back into our building to care for our patients."
Jackson said the hope is all nurses who want to come back to work will return by January 22.