Care New England workers vote 'no confidence' in hospital leadership

Members of SEIU District 1199 New England at Care New England's Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I., have voted "no confidence" in their employer.

The union announced the vote March 28, citing unresolved grievances and arbitrations, short staffing and an ongoing lack of clear, respectful communication related to management's plans to stabilize and invest in employees.

Nearly 1,400 Women & Infants caregivers, which constitutes 95 percent of workers who participated, voted no confidence, according to a union news release shared with Becker's.

"We made the decision to vote 'no confidence' because we are sick and tired of working short day in and day out and having our concerns brushed to the side. I used to stay late because I loved caring for my patients. Now I stay late because we are working short every day. If they don't get me help, I am responsible for up to 29 patients," Regina Brown, a certified nursing assistant in the antenatal care unit, said in the release. "You don't push your workforce to the breaking point and then keep adding in additional stressors. We constantly bring important staffing issues and concerns about disrespect to management, and they are doing nothing to alleviate the problem."

Union members specifically contend that the hospital has ignored their attempts to engage in discussion around use of American Rescue Plan Act funding to address staffing.

They also contend that hospital management has "publicly refused to conduct fair and reasonable investigations into worker allegations of disrespect, harassment, racialized language and systematic mistreatment of the majority female and diverse membership."

Union members say these circumstances have resulted in unresolved union grievances and, further, allege anti-union behavior. 

Providence-based Care New England executive leadership, the Care New England board of trustees and the Women & Infants Medical Executive Committee have expressed their full confidence in hospital leadership, including Women & Infants President and COO Shannon Sullivan.

Ms. Sullivan, who has served in her current role since 2020, "has made outstanding contributions to superior quality and care during her tenure," Care New England said in a statement shared with Becker's.

Hospital leadership "is committed to creating a welcoming, safe, collaborative and respectful environment for all team members," the health system added. "We do not tolerate acts of aggression, threats or abuse in any form. We all have a common mission of providing superior patient care in a supportive, compassionate environment."

Additionally, Care New England noted that it encourages employees to seek assistance if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. The health system said workers may contact security as well as their manager, and they can also report a concern through the 24/7 hotline or online. 

Kenneth Chen, MD, president of the Women & Infants Hospital Medical Executive Committee, shared a statement: On March 14, the committee "discussed at length the current direction and leadership structure and strategy of WIH. As president of the [committee], I am pleased to report that a confidential and unanimous vote of confidence was made by the entire [committee] in full support of the leadership of Women & Infants Hospital. We are confident that this world-renowned hospital, where over 80 percent of local babies are born, curative treatments for cancers and other maladies of our friends, neighbors and our own families, is living up to its values and mission. Not only does that mission mean care for patients, it also means care for staffs."

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