Healthcare System Problems Manifesting In High Desert

With medical costs rocketing into the stratosphere, hospitals and service providers are being pressured to limit to the extent they can the financial impact on their patients. At the same time, medical workers are feeling the pinch as well, and suffering untoward financial impacts of their own.
In San Bernardino County’s High Desert the manifestations of this situation are apparent.
The National Labor Relations Board late last month entered a finding that administrators with the Barstow Community Hospital have consistently evinced bad faith or otherwise used impermissible tactics in their bargaining with the California Nurses Association, which represents the nursing staff employed there.
For years, negotiations between the hospital ,and the nurses’ union have been less than productive. The nurses have leveled a host of charges at the hospital that move well beyond the straightforward matter of wages, benefits, hours and working conditions. Hospital officials maintain that at least some of those issues raised are absolutely invalid and involved false accusations.
On October 28, the National Labor Relations Board ordered Barstow Community Hospital to honor the terms of the agreements it had arrived at with the California Nurses Association in the negotiations carried out during that time.
That order came nearly three months after the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Barstow Hospital had erroneously failed to recognize the authority of the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director’s eligibility to negotiate on behalf of the nurses. The hospital had maintained the board’s lack of a quorum divested the regional director of authority to certify the election that designated the California Nursing Association as the bargaining unit eligible to represent Barstow’s nurses.
The National Labor Relations Board said Barstow Hospital, known officially as Hospital of Barstow, Inc, which is a holding of Brentwood, Tennessee-based Quorum Health Corporation, must cease to interfere in the relationship between the nurses and their chosen bargaining representatives and forthwith bargain in good faith. The board further ordered the hospital to pay the union for “negotiating expenses during a period of bad faith bargaining,” cease unilaterally imposing employment policies and remunerate nurses six years worth of back pay for any time worked in excess of a cap on nurses’ hours the hospital put in place as part of a training program.
The hospital has suffered a high level of employee turnover in an atmosphere in which nurses allege numerous labor violations and challenging workplace conditions including inferior or unavailable medical equipment.
The National Labor Relations Board has used its authority to safeguard the right of employees to engage in legal union activity to enforce those provisions of the contracts entered into with the nurses through the collective bargaining process.
Quorum Health maintains that it has acted properly in its negotiation process with unions representing its affiliates’ employees throughout the country, including those in California. It maintains that the refusal to accede to certain demands by unions is an outgrowth of the company’s effort to comply with the federal directive to deliver affordable medical care to the patents treated at its facilities.
An object demonstration of the brutal financial reality that attends the delivery of healthcare consists of the action taken by Providence St. Joseph Health Southern California, which runs St. Joseph Health, St. Mary Hospital in Apple Valley, to lay off eight employees there earlier this year.
According to Providence St. Joseph Health Southern California, that round of staff reductions, which occurred six months ago, does not include medical professionals but rather “caregivers” contributing to service provided to patients outside of a clinical setting.
Providence St. Joseph insisted that the move was absolutely necessary to keep the hospital from sustaining unacceptable financial losses. Those layoffs were made, the provider said, in “non-patient care areas.”
Running St. Mary’s efficiently, Providence St. Joseph Health Southern California maintains, will eliminate the squandering of funds being accumulated to enable St. Mary’s to undertake an expansion and the intensification of health services in the near future.

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