Jean Ross | Nurses organization hails hospital merger decision

Written by RN, Jean Ross to The Courier-Journal

As a bedside registered nurse for nearly 40 years, and an elected leader of National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest R.N. union, I applaud Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to protect University Hospital from privatization by CHI — one of the largest corporate hospital chains in the country.

Patients in Louisville can breathe easier knowing that one of the city’s most precious health care resources will remain in the public trust. R.N.s understand that our obligation to advocate for our patients cannot stop at the bedside. Our experience with hospital consolidations has taught us that distant corporate giants are rarely as responsive to their caregivers’ and patients’ needs as locally controlled public institutions. In fact, our nurses, as well as prominent studies, have found that the rush to consolidate hospitals into massive private chains often increases prices for patients and results in staff changes that don’t improve quality of care. The only winners in most takeovers are the corporations themselves — profit increases and their unhealthy influence over our health care system strengthens.

We shared the community’s concern about the reduced access to women's health services that would have been a condition of the CHI merger. Nurses know the harm that comes to our patients from inadequate essential services.

There is another issue at hand, perhaps not as widely publicized, but equally important when it comes to the integrity of this large hospital chain; the treatment of its own caregivers. CHI is going against its own church doctrine that requires Catholic health care providers to respect the right of its employees to choose for themselves whether to form a union, free from coercion, harassment or intimidation. (U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops— Respecting the Just Rights of Workers). The hospital chain is running a vicious campaign of intimidation against R.N.s who are trying to organize with National Nurses United at one of its facilities in Pueblo, Colo., Saint Mary Corwin Hospital. Registered nurses began organizing there because they felt that CHI corporate leadership was too focused on bottom line profits and unresponsive to the nurses’ patient safety concerns

We don’t want to see CHI’s profit focus  approach harm patients here in Kentucky.

Nurses compiled our concerns in a White  Paper that was delivered directly to Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway. Supported by a resolution from = the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, we met with  the Attorney General to explain what a CHI  takeover would mean for workers and patients at University of Louisville Hospital.

The issues discussed included the ability to  provide clinical training and assure patients that caregivers have the skills they need, the retention of experienced nurses, and
physicians’ ability to practice in the merged entity.

It was refreshing to find that public servants — such as Beshear — are still willing to listen to the voices of caregivers in a time when corporations and the 1 pecent  control so much of our political discourse. We urge the Governor to remain vigilant against any further attempts by CHI to take control of University Hospital, and against scare mongering that a corporate bailout is the only way to finance an institution that was $12 million in the black last year while providing care to our most vulnerable patients.