Amid tense contract negotiations, New Jersey’s largest nursing union announced Friday it had filed unfair labor practice charges against Bayonne Medical Center and Christ Hospital in Jersey City for threatening to fire and sue employees who publicly supported state legislation the owners have said will put them out of business.
The union also plans to picket outside the hospitals on June 29.
CarePoint spokesman Jarrod Bernstein said the company is aware of the charges.
“At all times, CarePoint’s conduct has complied with the law. We are currently in active negotiations with several of our unions and look forward to a successful conclusion to those negotiations,” Bernstein said.
“We are proud of our record on patient safety and have been recognized for it on a number of occasions. Any allegation that Carepoint compromises in the area of patient safety is inappropriate and just not true,” he added.
In complaints filed with National Labor Relations Board, the Health Professionals and Allied Employees claimed that during contract negotiations over the past few weeks, CarePoint Health officials told labor leaders their testimony in favor of legislation that seeks to curb high out-of-network billing would result in major losses and lead to the closure of one or both hospitals, according to union spokeswoman Jeanne Otersen.
The bill, aimed at preventing price-gouging and “surprise” billing by out-of-network doctors and hospitals in New Jersey, stalled this month amid heavy lobbying by doctors and some hospitals, including CarePoint facility.
Otersen said she and HPAE members testified before the Senate health committee during a hearing on the bill that claims by CarePoint that it would lose up to one-third of its revenue were not true. They produced financial reports that shows CarePoint earned $32 million in 2013 between Christ, Bayonne and Hoboken Medical Center. They also noted that for the past three years, Bayonne Medical Center has stood out in the nation as one of the most expensive hospitals in the nation, based on their “charges” – the sticker price people pay who are outside an insurance network that is also used as a negotiating point with insurance companies.
During contract talks, Otersen said, management made “veiled threats” to sue the local labor leaders over their testimony, she said.
Management and union member clashed again Thursday when nurses came to work wearing lapel stickers that read “CarePoint can afford safe staffing.” Supervisors instructed nurses to remove the stickers or they would be fired.
“Nurses and healthcare workers in Bayonne and Jersey City fought hard to save our hospitals, and to protect services and quality of care when CarePoint took over our community hospitals,” said Nicole Mankowski, president of HPAE Local 5186, representing 400 nurses at Christ Hospital. “We will not readily give our right to speak up for safe staffing, for our workplace rights, and for our patients in these negotiations.”
The contract between all Bayonne workers, Christ Hospital nurses and CarePoint expires June 30.
“We want to settle this contract by the 30th but we took these were actions we had to take to protect our members’ rights, to speak out without fear,” Otersen said.
Carepoint also owns Hoboken Medical Center, which is not represented by HPAE.