New York Nurses Score Huge Victory Against Large Hospitals

Although the main purpose of this blog promotes integrating creativity and the arts in healthcare, this blog also promotes nurses and the nursing profession, an integral and valuable profession in the healthcare industry.
Here’s some very distrubing news about illegal maneuverings by a healthcare network in northern New York against nurses.  Northeast Health, a network of hospitals which includes Albany Memorial and Samaritan Hospitals settled a class-action lawsuit alleging hospitals in upstate New York had for years violated federal antitrust law by sharing confidential wage data and conspiring to depress wages for registered nurses. Nurses hailed the settlement as an important step towards ensuring fair compensation for their profession and helping to solve the nurse shortage crisis, thereby improving quality of care for patients.

Northeast Health of Troy, N.Y., agreed to pay $1.25 million in a settlement that was filed on March 9, 2009 in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York.   The settlement is subject to court approval and includes provisions to halt anti-competitive behavior by Northeast Health in the future. These provisions prohibit Northeast justiceHealth from sharing current and future nurse wage information with other healthcare facilities in the Albany area, and give plaintiffs access to Northeast Health witnesses in order to further prosecute the action against other area defendants.  Northeast Health is the first among Albany area hospitals to “settle out” of the lawsuit and similar suits are moving forward in Detroit, Chicago, San Antonio and Memphis.  The company did not admit any wrongdoing and called the allegations in the lawsuit “completely false and offensive. (They’re not going to admit to exploitation and greed!)  About 2,500 nurses are represented in the class.

“We never conspired with any other hospital to suppress nurse wages, nor did we ever violate the antitrust laws in any manner,” the hospital network said in a statement.

“This is a breakthrough not only for nurses, but for the people we care for every day. For too long, hospitals cut corners when it came to valuing the hard work of nurses. Our hope is that this is the first step towards making exploitation1sure that hospitals invest in the kind of quality care that patients deserve,” said Cathy Glasson, RN, of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU.  “By helping to ensure competitive methods for setting RN wages, we can attract more new nurses to the profession, bring non-practicing nurses back to the bedside, and improve patient outcomes,” said Anne Jacobs-Moultrie, RN.

The suit, brought by two Albany, N.Y., nurses, is one of five related suits filed in 2006, in which nurses alleged that hospitals agreed to enter into a conspiracy to keep nurse wages artifically low and did so by sharing compensation information such as wage surveys. The SEIU Nurse Alliance has played a leading role in supporting empirical research that has exposed the national problem of employer collusion around nurse wages, shown the link between wage levels and the shortage of bedside nurses, and demonstrated the importance of staffing levels for improving patient care.

Heidi Hartmann, president and labor economist at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said the settlement was significant and could have a spillover effect on the related cases. One company’s settling could set a precedent for the other defendants, she said.  There are  four related suits across the country. 

Below are links to the press coverage in various newspapers:

First of all, I was shocked and dismayed to read about the illegal activities in artificially depressing RN wages and salaries by the New York hospitals.  In so greedydoing, the hospital management team not only contributed to the growing nursing shortage, but also put patient lives at risk (!).  I wonder if any of the hospital management team had any family member(s) in hospitals in northern New York? Most likely not, because low nurse-patient staffing ratios  are directly linked to the quality of patient care.  Northeast Health joined their brethren on Wall Street where greed, fear, short-sightedness and taking advantage are the main goals.  ‘Taking advantage’ is defined in the dictionary as “to profit selfishly by exploitation.”

I realize many hospitals are non-profit and many function in the red due to a number of uncontrollable factors in the healthcare system, such as pre-existing condition policies by insurance companies…use of emergency departments as primary care visits…treating the indigent…close to 46 million Americans uninsured (or 18% of population under 65 years)…the underinsured…denial of reimbursement by insurance companies…unhealthy health conditions of  US people…escalating senior population due to aging baby boomers…increasing number of chronic health conditions…living longer…

However, there is no excuse for ‘taking advantage’, of nurses who’s main goal is helping people.

Here’s a quote that’s very applicable to the above news article…

 “You must not loose faith in humanity.  Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” ~ gandhi


(an old boring book I transformed to a Book of Quotes)

Nurses are the backbone in healthcare, providing the infrastructure, foundation, support, and mortar in all healthcare organizations.  Without nurses, there would be no health services, no healthcare organizations and no healthcare dollars fueling the largest industry in the economy.  Nurses are firmly planted in insurance companies, public and private medical centers and hospitals, specialty outpatient centers, outpatient clinics, medical offices, schools, the legal system, public policy and long-term care industries, to name a few.  In fact, if you are observant, you will notice nurses working in every industrial sector, both great and small, of the economy.

And justice for all…


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