Nursing unions take on hospital leadership

Nurse Leader Insider, December 14, 2017

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Often we see nursing unions conflict with management on a number of issues related to salary and benefits, but we also see unions fighting regulation that can endanger nurses and patients. This week two unions clashed with hospital leadership to protect their patients and improve conditions at their facilities.

Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island:
The nursing union at Memorial Hospital filed a suit this week against Care New England, the facility’s parent company, and the state. The suit alleges that Care New England are not following the requirements of the Hospital Conversions Act, the Rhode Island law that governs hospital ownership. The union also claims the company failed to get approval before eliminating hospital services, such as the emergency department.

Care New England announced earlier in the fall that it planned to close Memorial, claiming tens of millions of dollars in operating losses and the facility and low patient numbers. The United Nurses and Allied Professionals union have pushed back against the proposal, stating that more should be done to keep the hospital open.

In a statement released along with the suit, Chis Callaci, the general counsel for the union, had this to say: “The Department of Health has allowed Care New England to circumvent the Hospital Conversions Act and now we are asking the Court to restore integrity to the regulatory process.”

Swedish Health in Seattle: Earlier this week, the nurses’ union and other caregivers voted overwhelmingly to express no confidence in the leadership of Swedish Health systems and its parent company, Providence. An overwhelming 98 percent of the 1500+ nurses and caregivers voted to express their opposition to the administration at Swedish, saying that morale and patient care continue to suffer under their leadership.

Swedish leadership had a turbulent year after a special investigation found that their Cherry Hill facility was using unsafe surgical practices, such as concurrent surgeries, unnecessary invasive treatments, and unsafe working conditions, in order to keep volume high at the hospital. The scandal lead to the resignation of the organization’s CEO and a top surgeon at the facility, but the caregivers at the facility say that isn’t enough, and they have yet to see a positive change at Swedish Health. Caregivers expressed concerns about supply and staff shortages at the hospital, inexperienced workers, low staff morale, and a high turnover rate.

At the gathering that lead to the vote of no confidence, Diane Sosne, president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, said: “We’re here because we care. We know this institution can do better. And we want to be part of an institution that we can feel proud of.”

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