NLRB charges Detroit Medical Center with unfair labor practices
- The National Labor Relations Board has charged Detroit Medical Center (DMC) Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital with multiple unfair labor practices. Nurses have been negotiating a union contract, including improved nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, since 2016.
- DMC has denied the allegations, but one recovery nurse told Crain's Detroit Busienss that a corporate administrator squashed negotiations on orders from Tenet Healthcare Corp., the Dallas-owned hospital chain that owns DMC.
- The NLRB complaint asks an administrative judge to reverse a number of hospital policies and reimburse nurses for any financial losses they may have been incurred.
The NRLB complaint lodges some serious allegations against DMC, including refusing nurses their right to meet with colleagues and labor representatives, threatening nurses with discipline in retaliation for their efforts to improve wages and working conditions and banning a union representative from entering hospital grounds.
But the situation reflects trends found across the county. A small contingent of nurses in Pennsylvania, for example, went on strike earlier this month after the NLRB ruled that UPMC unlawfully prohibited off-duty workers from unionization efforts. UPMC has not moved on its anti-union stance despite years of efforts on behalf of its workers.
As nurses across the country continue to rally for "safe staffing ratios" — rules that would set a maximum number of patients an individual nurse can care for at once — hospitals have fought back by quashing union activity and pouring money into lobbying and advocacy efforts.
That's because the staffing regulations cost money and resources hospitals argue they don't have. Last week, a study from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission found that implementing staffing ratios in that state could cost hospitals $676 million to $949 million a year. A ballot question in that state would force hospitals to hire as many as 2,286 to 3,101 additional full-time nurses to be in compliance.
Advocates of staffing ratios say that a mandate adjusting for acuity and hospital setting can be cost-effective, produce better health outcomes and act as a job creation mechanism, which they argue has been the case in California.
The nurse from DMC told Crain's that Huron Valley-Sinai nurses are hoping Tenet will allow for a contract for safe staffing. "It is not just a nurses contract, it is a patient contract," she said.
That sentiment is echoed by nurses across the country who are fighting for staffing regulation.
"How can you put a price on patient safety and patient mortality?" Sharon Mitchell, a nurse and safe staffing advocate in Pennsylvania, told Healthcare Dive last week.
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