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MNA Decries Leadership at UMass Memorial Health Care For Boasting of Record Profits of $85 Million

P R E S S   R E L E A S E

December 20, 2010

David Schildmeier 781-249-0430

MNA Decries Leadership at UMass Memorial Health Care For Boasting of Record Profits of $85 Million After Cutting Care and Services to Patients & Allegations of Suspect Billing and Marketing Practices

WORCESTER, MA — In the wake of posting record profits of more than $85 million for the year, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union that represents more than 2,500 registered nurses who work at hospitals and other facilities owned by UMass Memorial Health Care, is issuing this statement condemning the system’s senior administration for a series of recent misguided decisions that impact the quality and safety of patient care throughout the system, while also calling into question the integrity of the organization.

Specifically, the nurses cite:

  • the closure of a 28 bed medical surgical floor in October at its UMass Memorial hospital campus, at a time when patients are regularly forced to wait hours for care in the hallways of the systems’ emergency rooms;
  • the planned closure of a 15-bed psychiatric unit at Burbank Hospital, which will leave hundreds of severely mentally ill patients without access to appropriate care, while overburdening the entire mental health care system for the region;
  • a demand last Fall to cut home care nurses’ salaries by 10 percent, while making veiled threats to close the home care service because it wasn’t “profitable;”
  • the layoff of dozens of employees who deliver care to patients, which has forced existing staff to work shorthanded, and patient care to be delayed or compromised;
  • And finally, for its practice of spending several thousand dollars to hire high-priced models at shopping malls to solicit candidates for bone marrow testing, which the state of New Hampshire is investigating for potential criminal violations of insurance and consumer laws.

“Nurses, who are working harder and faster under increasingly strenuous conditions, are appalled at the behavior of our administration, boasting of record profits that have been made at the expense of the safety of patients.” said Kathie Logan, a member of the MNA Board of Directors and chair of the local bargaining unit for the University Hospital campus of UMass Memorial.

”How can an organization that calls itself a non-profit get away with posting $165 million in profits over the last two years, while they are closing services and beds that our patients desperately need,” said Colleen Wolfe, a member of the MNA Board of Directors and a nurse at the Memorial Hospital campus of UMass Memorial. “There are no words to describe the disgust nurses at our hospital feel when they learn that this system is spending thousands of dollars to hire models to patrol shopping malls, while closing desperately needed acute care beds.”

“Every week, our hospital issues an alert to all staff because there aren’t enough beds to take care of patients, leaving patients languishing in hallways waiting for care, yet they have closed one of our medical surgical units on the cusp of the flu season,” said Lynne Starbard, chair of the MNA local bargaining unit at UMass Memorial.

“I’m quite sure our patients aren’t getting a break on their insurance bill for their care in hallways. It’s nothing short of disgraceful.”

MNA Executive Director, Julie Pinkham, points to UMass as just another example of the unbridled arrogance of the health care industry in Massachusetts, where large health care systems engage in misguided management practices borrowed from other industries to boost profits. For example, UMass CEO John O’Brien has touted the systems’ adoption of “Six Sigma” and “Lean Manufacturing,” the latest management fads being touted by high priced health care consultants.

“At a time of economic crisis for most residents of Massachusetts, many health care providers are making enormous profits, while neglecting their core mission, which is to provide high quality care to the communities they serve,” Pinkham explained. “We want to know where are the Board of Trustees in this process, whose job it is to monitor the behavior and practices of these administrators. The application of production methods and manufacturing strategies originally developed for automakers and consumer products to the care of patients is both unseemly and dangerous. The system right now is out of control, and we nurses are not going to remain silent while our patients suffer. In a factory, if you make a mistake, there is recall, in health care, there’s a funeral.”