Windham Hospital workers picket to rally support amid stalled negotiations

Workers at Windham Hospital in Willimantic, Conn., picketed Wednesday amid stalled contract negotiations with the hospital's owner, Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare.

The workers, including nurses, therapists and technologists, were picketing to make the public aware of the contract negotiations and to voice their concerns about what they see as threats to patient care, according to a Journal Inquirer report.

Leigh Johnson, a registered nurse and president of the Windham Hospital Nurses Union, AFT Local 5041, told the publication significant changes are in the future.

"For our union members, the No. 1 priority in contract talks has been access to quality, affordable care for our patients. But Hartford HealthCare's representatives have shown a very different set of priorities. They've proposed taking away our ability to negotiate the impact of service cutbacks or shut downs — in other words, silencing Windham Hospital's caregiver workforce," the union president said.

Two healthcare unions have been in negotiations with hospital management since May.

Shawn Mawhiney, a hospital spokesman, released a statement, saying management is also disappointed agreements have not been reached on a contract with the bargaining units.

He said the hospital is "committed to bargaining in good faith," with the first priority being patients.

"We are doing everything we can to not impact them [patients] during these very difficult economic times. Windham has lost millions of dollars each year for the past several years — including $12 million this past fiscal year — so like other hospitals across the state and nation, we are trying to create efficiencies that do not impact patient care while at the same time focusing on strategic areas to grow services and improve access to healthcare."

He then gave the example of a recent ribbon cutting ceremony for the hospital's new Center for Healthy Aging at Windham Hospital, which provides various new services for older adults including behavioral health, exercise and access to homecare and other programs.

"These are new services that we added based on the results of our community health needs assessment. Our overall goal is to create a sustainable model so that Windham Hospital can continue to serve its patients and community for years to come," Mr. Mawhiney said.


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