RNs Provide Bedside Reality Check at CHS Shareholder Meeting Yesterday in New York City
Meanwhile, NLRB Trial Continues Against CHS for Multiple and Repeated Labor Violations at its Hospitals
Registered nurses working at hospitals affiliated with Community Health Systems (CHS), participated as shareholders, at the conglomerate's annual shareholder meeting yesterday in New York City, decrying patient care conditions at CHS hospitals, including chronic short staffing.
The RNs, affiliated with National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, expressed their opposition to the proposal on executive pension and the reappointment of the Board of Directors and their support for the proposal on shareholder proxy access. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was announced that shareholders voted against the Board of Directors’ recommendation on two items in alignment with the RNs’ recommendations, voting down a motion to approve the compensation package for CEO Wayne Smith at $10.4 million dollars and voting to approve the proxy measure to allow for more democracy in the election of directors.
“I became a shareholder because I want a voice in how this company is managed,” said Jo Rodebaugh, an RN from Greenbrier Medical Center in West Virginia. "On more than one occasion I have come across dangerous vital signs such as blood pressures that are not addressed because of inadequate staffing. Daily patients have had electrolytes critically low such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium (the very chemicals that affect the beating of your heart) and interventions to correct them are delayed due to a poor staffing mix," said Rodebaugh.
RN, Jennifer Holm, addressed the board as a shareholder and a nurse at Watsonville Community Hospital in California for 10 years. "I’m here because up until 17 days ago, I was a CHS nurse. CHS is no longer my employer, but there are issues relating to CHS that I would like to share with you today," said Holm. "There’s a link between staffing, nurse-burnout and infection rates. Hospital acquired infections cost the hospital roughly $800 for simple urinary tract infections; surgical site infections cost between $11,000 and almost $30,000. With each additional patient added to the nurse’s workload the infection rate increases by 1 per 1,000. Safe staffing practices and reducing burn-out could save my facility tens of thousands of dollars a year relating to infection rates."
Holm encouraged the board of directors to vote no on the executive compensation proposal.
Tennessee-based Community Health Systems/CHS is the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, reporting $1.5 billion in profits over the last five years. The chain operates over 160 hospitals throughout the country.
The RNs attending the meeting have worked with their colleagues to improve patient care conditions for the past four years. CHS has engaged in rampant and serious unfair labor practices at their hospitals, including terminating RN leaders in a wide-scale attempt to weaken support for the union and forestall reaching initial collective bargaining agreements. The NLRB has upheld numerous unfair labor practice charges filed against the hospitals by NNU and three US District Courts issued injunctions in response to the employer's unlawful conduct early in contract negotiations with RNs.
Currently the National Labor Relations Board is holding public hearings in multiple states as part of a trial, prosecuted by the NLRB's General Counsel, alleging CHS’ multiple and repeated labor violations at seven hospitals, including the six hospitals where the NNOC/CNA/NNU registered nurses are employed.
The hospitals are: Affinity Medical Center, Massillon, Oh, Bluefield Regional Medical Center, Bluefield, W. Va., Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Ronceverte, W.Va., Fallbrook Hospital, Fallbrook, Ca., Barstow Community Hospital, Barstow, Ca., and Watsonville Community Hospital, Watsonville, Ca.
The trial began in Cleveland in February and moved to Fallbrook, Ca. in April. The trial hearing for Watsonville Community Hospital is scheduled to begin the week of June 27 in Oakland, Ca.
This trial marks the first time that CHS is being tried as the parent company for labor violations at its hospitals under either the "single employer," or "joint employer" doctrines of the NLRB.
At the end of today's shareholder meeting, which is usually reserved for further questions and answers with the CEO, Smith declined to engage with the RNs in a discussion, citing the ongoing National Labor Relations Board trial.