Vermont psychiatric hospital workers to protest union leader firing

Employees at Brattleboro (Vt.) Retreat psychiatric hospital plan to protest the firing of union president and nurse Sy Creamer, according to The Keene Sentinel.

Ms. Creamer was fired on June 1.

In a news release cited by The Sentinel, Rob Smith, interim president of United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5086 and mental health worker at the facility, called the firing "an indirect attack on UNAP by the retreat administration." 

He said Ms. Creamer is one of several union officials who have been terminated or disciplined by the hospital in a six-month period.  

This includes Winston Salisman, a union vice president and mental health worker who said he was fired in November. Union Vice President Edward Dowd told The Sentinel he also was "relieved of his duty" in April and asked to not come into work in the days prior to a medical leave.

Retreat spokesperson Konstantin von Krusenstiern told Becker's Hospital Review via email that Ms. Creamer and Mr. Sailsman were fired for policy violations, and Mr. Dowd is still a hospital employee. He said a fourth union official resigned.

"The union has informed the Retreat that Ms. Creamer will continue in her role as union president, and the Retreat in turn has told the union it will continue to recognize her as union president," said Mr. von Krusenstiern. "However, her professional misconduct has disqualified her from being an employee at the Retreat."

The union alleges employee mistreatment. 

Ms. Creamer said she was placed on administrative leave May 4 for allegedly violating HIPAA when she forwarded a work email containing a patient identification number, according to the newspaper. 

She told The Sentinel she forwarded the email to herself and the union vice president because it showed the hospital was accepting new out-of-state patients, which the hospital said it stopped doing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mr. von Krusenstiern said Ms. Creamer was terminated "for patient privacy violations, removing confidential patient information from the Retreat and for her dishonesty during the investigation.''

As far as out-of-state patients, he said: "Since COVID-19 the Retreat clearly stated and followed through with its intention to prioritize the mental health and addiction needs of Vermonters.  A very small number of patients from out of state have been admitted when they had no other options for care and had been medically cleared of COVID-19."

The United Nurses and Allied Professionals has scheduled protests for June 15 and June 22. 

Read the full Sentinel report here

 

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