In another chapter in the ongoing dispute between Sutter Health in Sacramento, Calif., and Local 250 of the Service Employees International Union, the hospital system says the union is making misleading claims about its recent bond issue.
In an Aug. 12 press release, the union implied that shady dealings took place in the state's recent approval of Sutter $39.4 million tax-free bond financing. It said the approval came with "unusual conditions" and two separate votes were taken on the matter by the California Health Facilities Financing Authority.
Sutter executives responded that the July 23 approval represented business as usual. Of the SEIU press release, Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson said: "It's false and misleading. They claimed the bonds were restricted, and that is absolutely false."
Local 250 also accused Sutter of not being in compliance with state law, making it ineligible for a tax-free bond issue. The basis of the union's complaint was Sutter's failure to release to it the names of all doctors practicing at Sutter facilities. That information must be made public under the California Medicaid program.
Sutter officials acknowledged that not all affiliates of the system responded in a timely manner to the union's request. But they said the violation had been corrected.
With 26 hospitals and about 35,000 employees, Sutter operates one of the largest hospital networks in California. Oakland-based Local 250, the state's largest and arguably most politically active union, represents about 2,000 of those workers. An additional 1,000 Sutter employees are represented by other SEIU locals.
The bond-issue dispute is only the latest in a string of skirmishes between the two organizations. The SEIU also has lobbied to keep hospitals from joining Sutter and has organized work stoppages at 169-bed Sutter Roseville (Calif.) Medical Center. There, employees have been working without a contract for the past 15 months.
The state financing authority confirmed that Sutter is not constrained to use the bond issue in any way, although its stated purposes are the construction of an outpatient facility and the refinancing of debt.
An agency official also said that separate votes on the issue didn't take place. Local 250 claimed in its release that the July 23 meeting involved first a 4-4 vote and then a 4-3 vote to approve the issue with an abstention.