Federal Government Indicts Sutter/CPMC to Block Illegal Health Plan Imposed On San Francisco RNs

For Immediate Release
February 2, 2010

Trial to Begin May 3rd

Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center (Sutter/CPMC) is facing an upcoming trial over the unilateral imposition on January 1, 2010 of an unlawful health plan on registered nurses and other workers.

The National Labor Relations Board today announced that it will bring Sutter/CPMC to trial over the plan, with the possibility that Sutter will have to cancel the health plan—which covers about 7000 employees and their families (case numbers 20-CA-34705 and 20-CA-34737)—for CNA-represented RNs. The NLRB indictment asks a federal administrative judge to order CPMC to cancel these new plans for RNs, to restore prior health benefits to nurses, and to reimburse nurses and their families for the costs of the illegal plan. The NLRB issued its complaint after conducting an investigation of charges filed by the California Nurses Association/NNOC that CPMC had created a phony bargaining “impasse” in order to implement an inferior and more restrictive health plan on RNs and their families. The complaint concludes that CPMC “has been failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith with the exclusive collective bargaining representative of its employees in violation of Section 8(a)(1) and (5) of the Act.”

A centerpiece of Sutter’s new health plan is that nurses will be penalized for any visits outside of the Sutter network, regardless of availability and quality of Sutter providers. These new penalties disrupt long-time health relationships that nurses and their families may have with providers via Blue Cross or other insurers, and expose nurses to sharply higher costs for their more limited choices. Nurses are forced to pay steep new co-pays or change providers, even in the middle of treatment.

CPMC RN Jonica Brooks said “I’ve had cervical cancer and have a gynecological oncologist who is not covered by CPMC’s health plan. During enrollment for the new illegal plan, there was only one gynecological oncologist available in San Francisco. In order to continue seeing the doctor I’ve had for years, I would have to pay premiums I could have trouble affording. CPMC’s benefit staff couldn’t answer my basic questions about my coverage before I had to make expensive choices about my health care. I’ve heard from a lot of nurses in situations similar to mine and even worse. That’s no way to respect nurses who have given our careers to this hospital.”

Deborah Burger, RN, Co-President of CNA/NNOC, remarked “Sutter/CPMC has a long history of acting above the law and disregarding its obligations without regard for whether doing so harms its employees, taxpayers, neighbors, or patients.  Obstructing healthcare for nurses and their families is entirely consistent with Sutter’s track record, and a key reason why they have clearly lost the trust of the public and Bay Area lawmakers on a wide range of issues.”