Nurses accuse St. Joseph Health of shifting focus to profits

Registered nurses from Napa, Calif.-based Queen of the Valley Medical Center and other St. Joseph Health hospitals are accusing St. Joseph of shifting its focus away from nurse safety and patient care and toward profits, according to a Vallejo Times-Herald report.

The concerns are outlined in a new report on the state of St. Joseph, called "Falling from Grace." The report comes from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, which represents nurses employed by St. Joseph.

Based on experiences of RNs at Queen of the Valley and other St. Joseph hospitals as well as publicly available data, the union asserts in the report that St. Joseph and its hospitals have allegedly:

  • Reaped millions in tax subsidies from California taxpayers, while providing among the lowest amount of charity care of any Catholic system;
  • Invested patient care and tax subsidized funds into for-profit companies, including hedge funds in the Cayman Islands;
  • Launched a system-wide campaign to illegally restrict the rights of its RNs to organize a union to advocate for improved treatment of patients and RNs;
  • Been charged with scores of violations of federal law in the past year as a result of their anti-union campaign against their RNs;
  • Imposed sweeping cuts in disability, medical leave and retirement security on thousands of St. Joseph employees, while paying exorbitant executive salaries and benefits.

Queen of the Valley CEO Walt Mickens said in a statement company officials disagree with the union's assertions, according to the report.

"It's true that healthcare is changing dramatically and we have had to make difficult decisions," he said, according to the Vallejo Times-Herald. But, "our commitment to our community and our employees absolutely has not changed. (It's still to) improve the health and quality of life of all people no matter their circumstance."

According to the report, Mr. Mickens also said officials are "saddened" by the union's accusations.

"Most troubling, the CNA has grossly understated our charity care contributions," he said, according to the Vallejo Times-Herald. "At a time when hospitals are getting paid less to do more, the hospital actually spent 34.2 percent of its operating income on charity care and community benefit in fiscal year 2013."

Nisha Morris, director of media relations for St. Joseph echoed Mr. Mickens, saying that they don't agree with CNA's interpretation of the data, and that St. Joseph would have a fuller response once they analyzed the union's allegations, according to a Napa Valley Register report.


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