Group questions if involvement is hindering contract negotiations with nurses
The American Federation of Teachers believes there could be a connection between Community Health Systems’ purchase of Health Management Associates and CHS’ failure to negotiate a contract with registered nurses at ValleyCare Northside Medical Center.
The major stockholder of CHS and Health Management Associates is the Glenview Capital Management hedge fund, setting up a potential conflict of interest, Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers, said at a news conference Monday at Youngstown State University’s Historical Center of Industry and Labor.
As a result, Weingarten said AFT would send a letter today to the boards of CHS, parent company of ValleyCare Northside, and HMA, the purchase of which is scheduled to be closed in January and would make CHS one of the largest for-profit hospital organizations in the country.
She said the letter will represent shareholders in CHS and HMA because AFT has invested pension funds in the companies.
“We would never have gone down this route, but it does not make sense to us that CHS’ ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, which operates Northside and Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland, would not value Northside’s reputation for excellence and the nurses that helped achieve that reputation,” she said.
CHS representatives were unavailable to comment Monday.
The Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association’s members at Northside, who previously numbered about 430 and who have been working without a contract since July 19, 2012, conducted a one-day strike Sept. 24.
Upon returning to the hospital the next day, some of the RNs found they were locked out for varying periods of time ranging from 72 hours to a week.
The Ohio Nurses Association and YGDNA are affiliated with AFT.
After the strike, the nurses voted to reauthorize their union negotiating committee to call another strike against the hospital if deemed necessary.
There have been no negotiating sessions since, said Eric Williams, YGDNA president.
Williams said, however, eight RNs have been laid off and 60 have left Northside because of working conditions there and better-paying jobs elsewhere.
Weingarten said AFT looked into the CHS purchase of HMA, wondering what she called CHS’ “reckless spending spree.”
“Why is CHS doing all this stuff instead of focusing on quality of care? We didn’t understand why they wouldn’t do a contract” with the YGDNA, Weingarten said.
According to its website, Health Management Associates, a for-profit healthcare system which CHS has agreed to buy for $3.6 billion, has 71 health organizations in 15 states.