Citing the need for the proper staffing levels of nurses and other health care providers for patients at the Bayonne Medical Center, about 120 union members and leaders picketed outside the facility on July 21.
”We respect and fully support HPAE’s desire to express their views via picketing or any other lawful means,” said Allyson Miller, CarePoint Health vice president of marketing and business development.
The Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) members and CarePoint Health are negotiating an agreement on a one-year deal for the hospital employees, whose current collective bargaining agreement expires July 31, according to John Bauer of Bayonne, president of HPAE Local 5185.
The union represents 850 workers, the vast majority of the hospital’s staff, including nurses, technicians, transporters, nursing aides, dietitians, and case workers. HPAE does not represent management, administrative staff, or maintenance workers, who have their own union.
Bauer, an employee for 37 years at the hospital, and a registered nurse for 32 of them, said CarePoint has made $85 million since purchasing the hospital in 2008 and has not reinvested much of that into patient care.
“They’re focused on profits, not patients,” Bauer said. “Very little goes back to patients in terms of staffing.”
Having CarePoint institute and maintain proper staffing levels at the facility was the rallying cry of most of the leaders at the protest.
‘The major issue is staffing,” said Ann Twomey, president of the statewide HPAE, based in Emerson. “The census level is high, but they’re still not maintaining the staffing level, regardless of what the census is.”
Twomey said that CarePoint has not recognized experience, nor paid salaries commensurate with that experience, since they took over the facility six years ago.
“So it’s hard to recruit and retain [employees] as a result,” she said.
“Since our community hospital was bought by a for-profit, we have fought to maintain safe staffing for our patients,” said Nicole Mankowski, a nurse at Christ Hospital in Jersey City and president of the HPAE local 5186, who was picketing at the Bayonne rally. “At the bargaining table, we are adamant about winning enforceable, safe levels of nursing care for every patient.”
Christ Hospital’s contract expired May 31, but the union nurses agreed to stay on the job and keep negotiating to not disrupt patient care.
Bauer has asked the city residents to get involved to protect access to care at both hospitals.
“We are all from this community, and sacrificed to save our hospitals – and we need the community and our elected officials to come together to make sure we are putting patient needs first, before profits – and that we are protecting these hospitals for the long-term,” Bauer said.
Miller said CarePoint would continue to negotiate with the goal of reaching a settlement, and that no work stoppage in Bayonne is anticipated.
“We are continuing to bargain in good faith and making progress toward agreements with all of our unions and we are hopeful that both sides can reach an agreement,” Miller said. “At this time, no lockout has been announced or planned.”
Other contract issues being discussed are wages and pensions.