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Monday, March 10, 2008

Unionize Grady Hospital

Introduction: As a generally conservative thinker, I have no special love for unions. In fact, a good friend of mine grew up in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Gross Pointe. He is fond of telling me that nothing has ruined the auto industry like unions. That is debateable, however I am usually in favor of less union power over more. In fact, I explained the corrossive effect unions would have on Wal Mart in this piece. Of course, in the case of Grady Hospital, the unions have no power because there are none. In the case of Grady Hospital, unions would actually fit just like two puzzle pieces. In fact, they would fit so well that as you will see that is much of the reason that it will be so difficult to unionize the hospital. Grady is currently in terrible financial turmoil and is estimated to need half a billion dollars to survive. It has a long history of corruption epitomized by the case of State Senator Charles Walker. There is also a history of retaliation against whistle blowers. (including Joyce Harris, the whistle blower in the case of State Senator Charles Walker)

Unions have had a longstanding tradition of playing a vital role in representing the staff of hospitals all around the country. SEIU, the powerhouse union, is among the most active unions in hospitals. As they rightfully explain, a union would play a very positive role in a hospital just like Grady Hospital...

Around the country, growing numbers of hospital employees are forming unions.
Whether we are nurses or other professionals, technicians or business office clericals,
housekeeping or dietary workers, hospital employees today need a voice in the decisions that affect their jobs and their patients.

Forming a union guarantees we are heard because we speak with one unified voice. By working together as a group, rather than as isolated individuals, we can address key issues and concerns in our hospitals and health care facilities, including:

Staffing & workloads

Pay & benefits.

Job security.

A voice in hospital policies.

Rather than leaving all the decisions about our jobs, pay and benefits, and professional standards to hospital administrators, having a union allows hospital employees to negotiate over these issues. Because a negotiated union contract is a legally binding document, management can’t arbitrarily change policies or cut benefits without the approval of hospital employees.

Everything that SEIU says a union can do is vital at Grady Hospital. A union would be just the right organization to investigate and force change against the alleged corruption and horrible patient care at Grady Hospital that I have been documenting. A union would act as the perfect counter balance to the powerful, and possibly corrupt administration, in matters where staff dares to blow the whistle on the poor patient care that goes on there.

If hospital employees witness corruption or unacceptable patient care, they would have the union to protect them against the the likely retaliation they would face if they reported it. In the case of Grady Hospital, unions would play the extra role of being the watch dog against corruption and protectors of whistle blowing employees along with the other functions that unions hold. In other words, unions could be the ones leading the charge in rooting out the systemic corruption that infects Grady Hospital. Whatever power the administration and its allies hold at Grady Hospital, they would not be able to ram over a national union like SEIU.

Unions would bring with them one other vital thing, a great health insurance plan. Along with the problems of corruption that Grady Hospital has, it has one other problem: simple demographics. While Grady Hospital is now and always will be a hospital that primarily serves the indigent, the unions would bring with them thousands of patients with a great health insurance package: the union's. It can and must be part of the agreement that unionizing Grady must be done in conjunction with the union or unions being able to send their members to Grady Hospital.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and these new patients would be provided with top notch care. Grady measures up with any hospital in terms of services and facilities. Once the unions step in and root out the corruption and demand that conditions improve it would become a model hospital that its members would visit without being encouraged. Frankly, being a client of the place you are employed in, as this relationship is like, is natural and expected. The unions, like SEIU and others, would not only not mind, but they would frankly do much more in order to get the opportunity to unionize the large staff at Grady Hospital. By unionizing, it would solve in one fell swoop the inherent budgetary problems that an indigent hospital like Grady has.

Therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare once said. It is not so simple to get this done. That's because the unions likely would do what they intend to do and that is root out the corruption that is going on there. That's why the powers that be claim that turning over the board to some obscure non profit tax code (501(3)C) is the way to save Grady Hospital rather than a sensible idea like unionizing it. The powers that be don't want the corruption rooted out because they are the ones corrupting it. The ongoing narrative is that this 501(3)C is the only hope. It isn't. In fact, it is no hope at all. Unionizing Grady Hospital is a sensible idea who's time has come. Anyone who really cares about the future of this hospital should demand that this sensible idea be implemented.


While I would love to take credit for this idea, for full disclosure this fine and sensible idea came from a source of mine who does care about the direction of the hospital.


Jack Jersawitz said...

There is one error in your piece.

Patient care at Grady is great. I know because they have done surgery on me twice, once to relieve pressure on my brain because of cranial bleeding (Double sub-dural hematoma) and once to remove a 21" cancerous section of my colon after they detected the cancer when I finally complied after being hounded to get a coloscopy by my regular Grady care-giver (Nurse practicioner), over two years.

Many months ago Grady had an opportunity to sit down with a union, AFSCME, that has over a billion dollars in pension funds and many millions in health care operations.

They blew that off. Truth of the matter is when the government whores started raising a hew and cry about Grady going bankrupt, the banks got scared and shut down the Grady line of credit. Except for that the Board would have muddled through.

Now, after all the cries bout conflict of interest, it is proposed to install a 501 Board Chair named Pete Correll, ex-CEO of Georgia Pacific and a member of Emory Medical Advisory Board.

Emory provides the principal medical staff for Grady.

Correll, in an interview by Jenny Jarvis who writes THE NATION column for the LA Times, on November 26, 2007 was quoted thusly 'While any board "would be very hesitant to cut services in order to survive," Correll said, it also had to confront the question: "How do we decide what is a reasonable level of health?"

Obviously Correll is not speaking about determining "a reasonable level of health" for rich bastards like himself.

Perhaps, this would be murderer ought to think about his own fate when the revolution comes.

Jack Jersawitz

mike volpe said...

This is on top of current Chairman of the board being Pam Stephenson, who is also the current CEO, and a state legislator. There is no room for corruption in those duel roles.

As for patient care, I have plenty of documented evidence that patient care is not always the way it was for you. I have first hand accounts and i am sticking by them. The patient care may have been great for you, but others have told me nightmares of stories.

That said, the idea is a great one and we will see who wants to genuinely see Grady fixed and who doesn't by who gets behind this idea.