Testimony for Paula Ryan of Quincy Medical Center at the Attorney General’s Public Hearing on the Sale of QMC to Steward Health
Good evening. My name is Paula Ryan and I am a frontline registered nurse who has worked at Quincy Medical Center for more than 40 years. I was born at Quincy Hospital, I am a graduate of the Quincy Hospital nursing school and my entire family has received care at this hospital. I am here to speak as the elected chairperson for the local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents more than 240 registered nurses who are the backbone of patient care and key to .the survival of this hospital.
The last several years at Quincy Medical Center have been extremely difficult, with numerous changes in management teams, and the constant and real threat of a pending closure hanging over our heads. Through it all, the nurses have always been there, working tirelessly under all conditions, to provide the best care possible for patients. On numerous occasions, including two years ago, nurses have made financial and personal sacrifices for the good of this hospital to ensure its survival.
While others see hospitals as a business, as an employer, as a potential taxpayer, as an investment or as a profit center, as licensed clinicians, we know that the primary role of this hospital is to serve as the health care safety net for the city of Quincy and surrounding communities. If we forget this mission, if we neglect this mission or if we abandon this mission in any way, then all of us will have failed our moral and ethical responsibility as caregivers and as citizens.
It is in the interest of maintaining this vital health care safety net that we are here tonight to voice our support for the sale of Quincy Medical Center to Steward Health Care. We are enthusiastic about Steward’s stated mission of building a network of community hospitals that are focused on providing cutting edge medical care to local communities. We are enthusiastic about the millions of dollars that Steward has committed in this deal for making desperately needed improvements and upgrades to our infrastructure and technology.
While we support the sale of this hospital to Steward Health Care, there are specific concerns we have about the sale and Steward that we hope the Attorney General and Department of Public Health can address as part of this approval process.
First and foremost, as was done with your approval of the sale of the Caritas facilities, we ask that the purchase and sale agreement commit Steward to maintain Quincy Medical Center as a full service acute care hospital providing comprehensive services to all who need it in our community, regardless of creed, color or economic status.
We think there needs to be clear and unambiguous provisions that guarantee that all necessary services currently in place will stay in place for as long as the Department of Health deems them necessary.
As was done with the Caritas agreement with Steward, the agreement for the sale of Quincy Medical Center must include specific provisions enforceable through the Attorney General’s office, that commit Steward to recognize the Unions, the historic bargaining units and adoption of the contracts of all unionized employees. We are concerned that while Steward will recognize our union, they have yet to agree to recognize our contract, with the terms and conditions we have spent years negotiating for the benefit of the nurses and the patients we care for.
We have been in protracted negotiations with our current employer and have offered, given the Hospitals situation, to extend the contract w/o changes to allow for financial stabilization. This offer has been articulated to Steward and to date that offer has not been accepted. This is a fair and respectful way to proceed and should occur prior to any sale or transfer of assets is concluded.
Finally, a major concern for the nurses at Quincy Medical Center regarding the pending sale to Steward is the need for the Attorney General to ensure that Steward upholds the agreements that it has made in conjunction with prior of future hospital conversion sales.
As I know was voiced by my counterpart at Morton Hospital during your hearing on June 30th regarding that proposed sale, we at Quincy Medical Center have been dismayed to learn from our MNA colleagues at the Caritas/Steward facilities, that Steward has thus far failed to honor its contractual agreement with the Massachusetts Nurses Association surrounding the establishment of the MNA Taft Hartley Pension fund.
Steward, in an alliance agreement, stated it would, and I quote, “work together to ensure the growth and success of the MNA nurses’ multiemployer pension plan for MNA members.” Steward has failed to execute that agreement. In recognition of the MNA’s concerns at the Morton hearing, Steward made a public statement that it would resolve the issue within 30 days, but to date, they have failed to do so.
Putting aside the issue of the pension plan in particular, the more general concern, not only for the nurses of Quincy Medical Center, but for this entire community, is the need to be fully assured by the Attorney General that Steward will abide by its contractual obligation, not only including those previously reached, but also for those obligations which may result should the sale of our hospital be approved.
To assure adherence to agreements surrounding previous sales as well as this transaction or others that may occur, we believe it is important that the Attorney General’s office maintain ongoing authority and oversight of Steward Health Care, not only for the next few years but, more importantly, following this transition period to ensure that all commitments made to this and other Steward-served communities are honored.
For our part, the nurses at Quincy Medical Center are committed to working with Steward Health Care as well as with the state and our community to ensure that Quincy Medical Center continues to provide the best care to all who need it as we have always done. Thank you for your time this evening.