“As caregivers, we have valuable input on how to best put patients before profits,” said Leigh Johnson, a registered nurse (RN) with 28 years of bedside care experience at Windham Hospital. “When we first spoke out about the harm that closing critical units would cause, I said our voices should be heard. And because we spoke out as a union and as a community, management has heard our voices,” said Johnson, who also serves as president of the Windham Hospital Nurses Union, AFT Local 5041.
Johnson’s comments refer to Wednesday’s agreement by hospital management to engage in “decisional bargaining” with two AFT Connecticut-affiliated local unions representing the majority of the workforce. At issue are significant programmatic and staffing changes proposed by Hartford HealthCare (HHC), the regional non-profit network that owns and operates the 130-bed acute care facility. The network in June announced plans to shut down the hospital’s Critical Care Unit (CCU), Intermediate Care Unit (ICU), Wound Care Center, among other patient services, and to slash 119 caregiver jobs.
“As union members, we have an obligation to advocate for our patients and the community,” said Heidi Kolle, a patient access services associate in Emergency Room Registration/Admitting with over 25 years experience at the hospital. “That’s why we joined with lawmakers to denounce the cuts. It’s why we are collecting signatures for the ‘Save Our Services’ petition. We love our hospital and won’t stand by and let it be dismantled,” said Kolle who is currently serving as interim president of Windham Community Memorial Hospital Employees United, AFT Local 5099.
Kolle’s comments refer to a press conference state lawmakers representing the region organized earlier this month to express their formal objection to Hartford HealthCare’s threatened cuts and layoffs. Hospital caregivers attended and spoke at the event outside the hospital and last week launched a regional petition drive at Willimantic’s 3rd Thursday Street Fest.
“The community, caregivers and state lawmakers deserve answers to some critically important questions,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “This agreement means we’ll not only get to ask them but offer better choices than the proposed shutdowns. At the same time we’ll keep asking how the network can justify millions in bonuses and incentives for executives in Hartford while claiming they’re forced to make cuts in Windham,” said Hochadel.
Hochadel’s comments refer to press accounts of recently obtained IRS records from 2013 exposing nearly $13 million in total compensation provided to just 18 of Hartford HealthCare’s top executives. The Journal-Inquirer of Manchester reported a bonus equal to 12 times the average family household income in Windham handed to network Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President Elliot Joseph alone. HHC has over the past two years repeated publicly comments blaming reduced state health subsidies for system-wide program changes and efficiency schemes such as the recent Windham Hospital cuts.
AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute care health professionals in the state, represents approximately 350 RNs, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), technologists and healthcare workers at Windham Hospital. For more information, visit www.aftct.org or follow the labor federation on Twitter at @AFTCT and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.
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Click here for the “Windham Unites for Quality Care” press conference highlights video.
for the Save Our Services Petition
to HHC’s CEO, COO & Board of Directors.