Massachusetts Health Care Nonprofits Facing More Turmoil

August 11, 2017 — Nonprofits that provide health care on the North Shore and Cape Cod are experiencing more of the turmoil that continues to roll through the health sector, with a strike threatened at one, a chief executive dismissed from a second, and a move to cut dozens of workers at a third.

Bridgewell Employees Threaten to Strike

Union employees at Bridgewell, a Lynnfield nonprofit that supports individuals with developmental and psychiatric disabilities, are threatening to strike on Aug. 20 over a pay hike and working conditions, according to a report in yesterday's The Salem News.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509 members at Bridgewell have been negotiating with management on a new contract.

According to the report, the union said it has bargained in good faith with management to address a "crisis in care at Bridgewell and private sector human services agencies" across Massachusetts.

The union reportedly asserted that "frontline workers struggle to earn a living wage, which results in high turnover and constant staffing issues that affect quality of care."

Bridgewell issued the following statement from interim chief executive officer Kelly Martin, as reported by The Salem News: “Despite our budget limitations, we have always worked to ensure our dedicated employees receive a fair wage to provide the high quality services our clients expect and deserve. We have done our best to negotiate a contract and we are disappointed that an agreement has not yet been reached.

"Our plan is to remain actively engaged in discussions to resolve any remaining issues in the coming days. In the meantime, Bridgewell is fully prepared with a contingency plan to provide care and support to our clients in the event the union moves forward with their threat.”

A strike would affect more than 1,000 Bridgewell employees who care for about 6,250 clients in the agency's network, the paper noted.

According to the union's contract that expired June 30, most workers earned between $12 and $15 per hour at the start of the agreement in 2014, and were due to get 2% pay raises in 2015 and 2016.

Chief executive dismissed from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital

Joe Woodin was dismissed from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, part of Partners Healthcare, due to board concerns about employee turnover, the Boston Business Journal reported yesterday.

Woodin apparently was fired in June, after serving for a little more than a year, but no explanation for his departure was given at the time, the BBJ reported.

“Based on information from members of the hospital community, the Board was concerned about ensuring stability and avoiding the loss of individuals who are essential to the operations of the hospital and the delivery of care to our patients,” hospital spokeswoman Rachel Vanderhoop was quoted in the paper.

A search committee has been formed to find a replacement for Woodin, with, according to Vanderhoop, the aim to have someone in the job by yearend.

Cape Cod Healthcare Seeks to Cut 55 Workers

Cape Cod Healthcare, a major nonprofit provider of health care, which operates Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, as well Falmouth Hospital and outpatient treatment facilities in Barnstable, Bourne, Harwich, Mashpee, and Sandwich, is seeking to eliminate 55 jobs through the sale of its laboratory testing business.

Union officials are protesting the sale, according to a report in yesterday's Boston Business Journal.

Cape Cod Healthcare filed paperwork with the state in June that it planned to sell its lab testing business to New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics, the BBJ reported, although Cape Cod phlebotomists "would continue to take the samples at the hospital’s outpatient sites and two hospitals."

“Our cost of providing these services is higher than those of other competitors in the marketplace; insurers and government payers have demanded that we lower costs and made it clear that they do not expect to continue reimbursing us for the full cost of our testing in the long term,” said Michael Lauf, president and CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare, was quoted in the paper.

Early this week, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 protested that "the highly paid jobs deserve to be protected in the face of what it called minimal cost savings," the BBJ reported.

The hospital said affected employees would have the opportunity to apply for other positions within the hospital, and that those who could not find jobs at Cape Cod would be given severance, according to the BBJ.

"The state’s health care watchdog, the Health Policy Commission, still needs to sign off on the deal. Quest said with state approval, it hopes to complete the transaction by January 2018," the paper noted.