Sparrow Hospital health workers to hold information picket to highlight health system’s inaction on staffing issues – State of reform

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Lansing Sparrow Hospital healthcare professionals socket an information picket on the sidewalk of the hospital on November 3. There will be no work stoppage and health professionals will be absent. However, they say that if hospital leaders continue to underpay workers and do not increase staff after the picket line, they are ready to call for a strike authorization vote.

Here are some of the main concerns on both sides of the issue.

Michigan Nurses Association

Picketers say they are speaking out to highlight poor staffing conditions and lack of assistance from the Sparrow health system. The Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) says their demands for retention programs and increased financial incentives to ameliorate staff shortages have gone unheeded by the healthcare system, leading healthcare professionals to quit. their jobs, exacerbating their shortages.

Picketers advocate safe staffing practices, which the MNA has defend several times under the Safe Patient Care Act. The MP says Sparrow refused to follow existing contract language regarding safe staffing and offered to eliminate it altogether in the next contract.

Katie Pontifex, President of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA), says:

“The pandemic has shown us the flaws in our healthcare system and how vital it is that these flaws be corrected. Sparrow executives cannot continue to choose to skate on thin ice with our staffing levels. There is no shortage of nurses and healthcare workers in this state – there is a shortage of nurses and healthcare workers ready to work under the current conditions with which hospital leaders are. become far too comfortable over the years. The more the workforce deteriorates, the more we lose qualified caregivers. Something has to change, and it has to change now. “

According to the MNA, Sparrow Health System has received $ 106 million in federal government assistance related to the CARES Law. Despite this significant financial support for Sparrow, the MNA says the healthcare system has refused to implement retention incentives or reinstate longevity bonuses for healthcare professionals.

Jennifer Ackley, a nurse who works in the emergency department at Sparrow Hospital, says:

“I’m exhausted. I’m frustrated. I’m sick of being asked to keep doing more with less. We need safe staff. We need to recruit and retain nurses and other caregivers. We need to be heard Sparrow’s leadership cannot continue to try to use the pandemic as an excuse not to do the right thing.

Julie Mason, Clinical Laboratory Scientist in the Microbiology Department at Sparrow Hospital, says:

“We advocate for secure staffing. We advocate the retention of caregivers. Rather than investing on the front lines, Sparrow executives chose to hire anti-union lawyers to try to silence our collective voice. We are organizing this information picket to say that we will not be silenced. “

According to MNA, Sparrow decided to hire Barnes and Thornburg, a law firm specializing in “union avoidance”. MNA believes this shows that Sparrow doesn’t respect their voices or care about negotiating fair contracts.

Sparrow Health System Response

Sparrow says they continue to “bargain in good faith” to reach a deal that will be the best for patients, caregivers, the community and Sparrow. John Foren, Sparrow’s director of media relations, says:

“Sparrow Hospital remains focused on reaching a deal that continues to provide competitive salaries and benefits to help attract and retain our caregivers. “

Foren says they have met PECSH-MNA 18 times since negotiations began on July 30 and have made significant progress in implementing benefits for their caregivers. He says Sparrow pays one and a half time for bonus shifts – plus up to $ 20 more per hour -, paid $ 22 million in overtime and nearly $ 300 million in overall labor costs.

“Sparrow has the utmost respect for all of our caregivers, and we appreciate them and the work they do every day to care for patients and families. Like healthcare systems across the country, we continue to address staffing challenges, but remain committed to maintaining staffing ratios consistent with or above those of peer hospitals and meet or exceed legislation requiring ratios. staffing in other states. “

Foren says Sparrow has made several proposals to help improve staffing and continue to post, approve and interview for new positions. He says they recruit and retain caregivers by attending “dozens” of career fairs each year, recruit from schools across the state, and offer referral and retention bonuses.

Sparrow Health System on October 29 offered the following to the union:

  • A general increase of 4% upon ratification of the contract;
  • A general increase of 3% in October 2023 and 2024 and a step increase / progression of 1% in May 2023 and 2024
  • This represents a total increase of 4% per contract year for a total of 12% over 3 years.
  • One-time lump sum bonus of $ 1,000 for all full-time members and $ 500 for all part-time bargaining unit members.
  • Of $ 22 million Sparrow Hospital has spent January through September 2021 since the start of the year on overtime, on-call, and caregiver bonuses, 56%, or $ 12.3 million paid to unit members MNA / PECSH negotiation. Of this amount, RNs directly received $ 11.4 million.


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