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Community Rallies Behind ARMC Nurses As Hospital Demands Huge Cuts

Michigan Nurses Association Press Release, 3/12/13

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Extreme, unnecessary cuts threaten patient care, local economy

ALPENA – Nearly 100 retirees and other community members held a rally Monday evening in Duck Park with ARMC nurses to speak out against drastic, unnecessary wage and benefit cuts proposed by the hospital that could threaten safe patient care and the local economy.

“I’ve seen the value of the nurses both as a retired hospital employee and a former heart patient at the medical center,” said Pastor Art Fournier of Under His Wings Christian Fellowship. “As a longtime Alpena resident, it’s sad to say the hospital isn’t being run like it used to. Hospital officials have a moral responsibility to treat their employees well. The hospital does not belong to the people running it and choosing to put money first. The hospital belongs to us, the community, and we want patients put first.”

The home health care nurses and nurses supervisors, two of three groups of registered nurses at ARMC represented by the Michigan Nurses Association, were handed a proposal that could cut wages up to 50% and increase their health care premiums by hundreds of dollars a month.

The cuts would make it impossible for many of the nurses to make a living, driving experienced nurses out of the community and putting patient care at risk. Despite the fact that the medical center is doing well financially, the hospital has not budged from its unreasonable demands during several negotiation sessions with Human Resources Director Diane Shields.

The nurses stressed that they take pride in working for ARMC and want to continue to take care of their patients. They recognize that the quality of the hospital is key to keeping residents in the area and attracting more people to the area, especially retirees.

But the bottom line is that the cuts just go too deep.

“I have five kids under 18, including one with epilepsy,” said Bridget Forbes, RN, a home health care nurse. “In addition to taking a big pay cut, I would have to pay more than $1,000 a month to keep my kids on health insurance. How ironic is it that our on children might not be able to get healthcare when their mother is a nurse delivering healthcare to other families? That’s just not right.”

If the hospital – the county’s largest employer – starts a trend of slashing wages and benefits to such a severe level, it’s likely that other employers will follow. Such cuts could hurt the business community because families won’t have money to spend locally.

“The nurses and everyone at the hospital are good customers who support my business,” said Jimmy Chen, owner of the Hunan Chinese restaurant in Alpena. “If their wages are cut so low that they can’t eat here, my business will suffer. If wages are cut, all of the businesses in Alpena will be hurt. It will be hard for all of us to survive.”

John Karebian, executive director of the Michigan Nurses Association came to the rally with a message of enduring support from the organization and its 11,000 members around the state.

“Whenever a hospital is putting profits before patients like ARMC is, the Michigan Nurses Association will be there to fight for our nurses and the community they serve,” Karebian said. “MNA and our nurses have a long, proud history of advocating for the people of Alpena to have high-quality health care. That commitment stands, especially in light of ARMC’s outrageous proposal. What matters is the quality of the community’s health care, not the quantity of money in the CEO’s pocket.”

The nurses are urging the community to call ARMC CEO Karmon Bjella at (989) 356-7000 and tell him to be fair to the nurses who are the ones who provide direct care to the Alpena community and beyond.

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