Author Archive: Ann Twomey, HPAE

HPAE President’s Message

Let’s Stay Focused On Our Issues and Principles

This is the year when numbers and percentages have been used as shorthand to express social and political views.  You are either in the 99% or the 1% of very wealthy Americans. Now there is a new category: Mitt Romney’s designation of 47% of Americans as supporters of President Obama, non-tax payers, people who just want a government hand-out, or people who believe in a right to health care, food or housing.  

Numbers can be confusing, inaccurate, divisive, or just an overly simplistic way to calculate the status of an election campaign, the economy and our very future.

That’s why we ask you to stay focused on our main issues and principles. Those principles do include a right to quality health care for all of our patients and access to care for our communities.

Governor Christie: Transparency and Accountability Just a Slogan, Not a Policy

promoted by Rosi

When Governor Christie went on the national stage at the Republican Convention earlier this week he wasn’t telling the whole truth.  I know I don’t have to tell everyone at Blue Jersey that fact.

Specifically, when the governor talked about New Jersey’s government being accountable and transparent, or how his administration works with Democrats to solve problems, he failed to mention his veto of legislation that would have given patients and taxpayers accountability for the millions of dollars in public funding now going to for-profit hospitals in New Jersey.  

Christie’s veto meant that private for-profit hospitals can continue to operate under a veil of secrecy.

And I hope you’ll sign our petition to override Christie’s veto of the bill. 

Who is being protected – patients or profits?

promoted by Rosi

Governor Christie recently vetoed a bill that would require hospitals – particularly for-profit hospitals – to report publicly on whether they are spending charity care and public funds on patient care or on excessive profits. It begs the question: Who is Governor Christie protecting – taxpayers and patients or those who profit from New Jersey’s patients?

The New Jersey Hospital Disclosure and Public Resource Protection Act (S782/A21243) passed both the NJ Senate and NJ Assembly with strong bi-partisan support, in recognition that for-profit hospitals are operating under a veil of secrecy when it comes to whether their profits are coming at the expense of quality patient care and services.

Yet, Governor Christie took out his red pen and turned a state requirement that hospitals file this financial information with the NJ Department of Health into a half-year “study” by the DOH Commissioner. Other information the law would require to be disclosed would include, for example, whether for-profit hospital boards and executives were doing business with each other – often called ‘self-dealing’. Not-for-profit hospital boards must disclose self-dealing on reports filed with the IRS; private for-profit hospitals, like many in NJ – have no such requirement.  

Protecting the Future of Christ Hospital – for our community

By Michael Yun, President, The Central Avenue SID and Ann Twomey, President, Health Professionals and Allied Employees

For nearly 140 years the residents of Jersey City and surrounding communities have been relying on Christ Hospital and its dedicated staff for safe and effective health care.  Each year, the staff helps deliver more than 1200 babies; cares for over 8000 hospitalized adults and nearly 600 hospitalized children; treats more than 45,000 residents in the Emergency Room; and provides the largest inpatient pediatric service in Hudson County.  

Christ Hospital belongs to the community it protects, and its future should not be decided by a handful of people behind closed doors.  That is why community, civic and religious leaders have teamed up with healthcare providers and elected officials to protect our community hospital and its mission to provide care to all who need it.  

A Strike Notice to the American Red Cross

Every one is aware of the work the American Red Cross (ARC) does on disaster relief operations around the world.  However, this is just a fraction of what they do.  What many don’t know is their blood services division brings in more than $2 billion a year, amounting to over two-thirds of their national revenue.  

We appreciate the role they are playing in our communities and around the world, but that does not mean they get a free pass when it comes to ensuring the safety of blood donors and complying with fair employment practices.    In fact, the real disaster is how the American Red Cross Blood Services Division treats its blood donation collection staff, and how that affects the safety of our blood donors and blood supply.

ARC’s record speaks for itself.  Since 1993, over $37 million in fines have been levied by the Food and Drug Administration because of significant violations of blood safety rules.  As recently as last summer $16 million in fines were paid to the FDA – money HPAE believes would be better spent on safe staffing and other improved safety practices.  Red Cross has also been cited over and over for labor law violations, violating terms of their collective bargaining agreements with many of the 3000 blood service workers across the country.

Sign our community pledge at HPAE.org to send a message to the American Red Cross that you won’t stand for their double cross.  Our union – specifically Local 5103 representing the Registered Nurses and Donor Collection Assistants – is currently in contract negotiations with Red Cross management.  These are nurses and donor collection staff on the frontlines of blood safety efforts, ensuring donors are protected working long hours at understaffed donor sites.

On May 13th we issued a ten-day strike notice to management to take a stand on behalf of the safety of our donors, our members and the blood supply.        

A Bucket Brigade for the Middle Class

By now everyone knows of the massive rallies in Wisconsin protesting the attacks on the middle class. The middle class represented by firefighters, police, those who plow our streets and keep our neighborhoods safe and clean. They are our neighbors, our children’s teachers, EMTs and nurses who come to our aid when we need them.  They are also members of HPAE, 4000 nurses, health professionals and medical researchers at UMDNJ and Runnells.

While Wisconsin Governor Walkers’ assault on the right to bargain for decent working conditions is severe, it is also part of a national trend to make middle class workers pay for the economic crisis.  So I traveled to Wisconsin, along with other HPAE members and staff, to show our support for nurses and other public service workers. By the time we got there, the Governor had shut down the Capitol, locking out hundreds if not thousands of protesters.  A few hundred are still in the Capitol Building, because police refused to arrest them, and some even joined in the protest.  In fact, firefighters and police are the clear heroes around here, leading many of the parades and photographed by nearly everyone.  

That’s because even though Governor Walker exempted police and firefighters from the elimination of negotiating rights, they joined the protest – in huge numbers. Noone said it better than firefighter leaders:  “We are the ones who run into the burning houses when everyone else is running out,” said one firefighter. “Well, the house of labor is on fire, and we are here.”

Well, the house of labor is under assault and so is the middle class that is represented by so many teachers, nurses, firefighters and police – from New Jersey to Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana and Florida. In scores of states, new Republican legislators and Governors have proposed the elimination of bargaining rights, wage freezes and pension deductions. The budget crisis facing our states is a very direct result of Wall Street greed, its collapse and the subsequent loss of tax revenues due to high unemployment and business failings.

Over the past two weeks, the goals of Governor Walker have become clear to many here in Wisconsin, and around the country.   And it is not about saving money in this year’s budget.  Not only would the Governor’s legislative proposal take away democratic negotiating rights, but it would also allow his Cabinet to sell public utilities without bid, and reduce Medicaid services without legislation or public hearing or notice.  It is drastic, and will undo years of democratic progress. Republican Governors and legislators blame the high salaries and benefits for public employees. This is simply false.  Various studies have shown that employees in the public sector actually earn less than their counterparts in the private sector, and the shortfall in pension plans is due to the downtown in the stock market, and the failure by states like New Jersey to pay into the system even while borrowing against the funds. Throughout these bad economic times, public workers continued to pay their share into the pension plan.

At For-Profit Hospitals… Follow The Money

For-profit companies “turn around” hospitals, not with a magic bullet but with by, cutting corners, services, and staff. They do it with our tax dollars. And they do it in the dark. The New Jersey State Senate has an important opportunity on January 6 to bring the financial operations of these companies into the public light and out of secret boardrooms.

These for-profit hospitals use the same increasingly scarce public sources of funding – Medicare, Medicaid, Charity Care, and Family Care, as our non-profit hospitals. Yet the current financial reporting requirements are very weak. For-profit hospitals must be held to the same standards of financial transparency and accountability as our non-profit hospitals. Shouldn’t the communities they serve know how much is being spent on compensation for top executives or on supplies and services provided by the owners’ affiliates and subsidiaries-particuarly when much of the revenue is the result of our tax dollars? Maybe, but they are not.

Recognizing New Jersey’s Nurses

Promoted by Rosi Efthim

As National Nurses’ Week winds down, many nurses and healthcare workers are disheartened by the disconnect between nice ceremonies recognizing the importance of our work and the attacks on our working conditions and on the patient care we provide.

Nurses and health care workers fight to get healthcare right 365 days of the year.  While lunches and ceremonies are nice, what we really want are the tools, the staff and the support we need to provide safe and effective care every day for our patients.

When our new Governor plays politics with our health care by recklessly slashing funding for programs like Family Care, family planning clinics, and prescription drug supports for seniors,  he is making it harder for our patients to get the care they need, when they need it.  That results in more uninsured patients in our crowded emergency rooms, or with patients sicker when they get to their doctor or hospital, because they couldn’t afford their necessary medications.  

The Wrong Diagnosis

This, posted early this week, is promoted by Rosi

Those of us in the medical field know that without the right diagnosis, you can’t cure the real problem.  

Right now, New Jersey is facing trying economic times.  Our deficits are running high and most of our citizens feel overtaxed.  Governor Christie was elected on this wave of economic anxiety.  But this doesn’t mean reducing or eliminating vital services and the people who provide those services is the right fix.  In fact, it’s the wrong fix for our communities and for our economy.

Equality For All

Ann Twomey is President of HPAE – Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the union representing more than 12,000 nurses, social workers, therapists, technicians, medical researchers and other health care professionals in hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, blood banks and university research facilities in both New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. Twomey represents the largest health care union in New Jersey. And her message is also posted on the HPAE website, for all her members to read. Thank you, Ann- – Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

The NJ State legislature is considering the Marriage Equality bill.   I hope they pass it.   There are strong views that support marriage equality and strong views that oppose it.  Some say – stay out of it – it’s too controversial.  But controversy should not be the reason for inaction.

In our workplaces we would never allow our colleagues to be subjected to unfair treatment from our employers.  As union members, we bargain contracts to make sure everyone is treated fairly without discrimination- and we take that mission seriously, backing it up with our collective strength.  It;s a matter of fairness and equal treatment.  Unions like ours have always been at the forefront of battles to expand civil rights and equal rights for all Americans.

That’s why I think it is important for me, as president of HPAE to speak out in favor of marriage equality.  It is both personal and political to me. Below is a description of what happened to one of our members.