ST. PAUL, Minn.—More than 12,000 hospital nurses in Minnesota have voted to accept a new three-year contract and not go out on strike, ending a contentious labor-management dispute that threatened to boil over into one of the largest strikes in healthcare history. Workers at 14 hospitals in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area who belong to the Minnesota Nurses Association voted to accept a wage structure that was substantially the same as their nonunion peers, with a total of 3% pay raises over three years. The union said the contracts were approved “overwhelmingly” by the nurses, but declined to release the vote totals. The new contract went into effect upon ratification and remains in place until May 31, 2013. In negotiations with federal officials, the hospitals agreed to drop their demands that union members reopen their pension plans to adjust benefits, while the union agreed to press its case for strict nurse-patient ratios through interdepartmental staffing committees that already exist. The union also said in a news release that it “fought off” hospitals' attempts to give management the ability to reassign registered nurses “to any unit at any hospital at any time.”
Regionals: Nurses accept three-year contract and other news
CHICAGO—St. Anthony Hospital is celebrating its anniversary of becoming a stand-alone community hospital after splitting from Ascension Health July 1 of last year (July 13, 2009, p. 6). The 151-bed hospital has been operating since the early 1900s in a part of the city made up of what are now predominantly Latino and African-American neighborhoods. It became Ascension's sole Illinois hospital in 2002, three years after Ascension was formed through a union that involved one of St. Anthony's Catholic sponsors. The organizations ultimately concluded the relationship wasn't helping either party, and the hospital was running losses for several years until turnaround efforts allowed the facility to run positive margins in 2008 and 2009. For the first 11 months of the fiscal year ended June 30, St. Anthony is showing $2.3 million in adjusted operating income on revenue of $95.9 million in spite of losing about $1.5 million during the year in subsidies previously received for treating undocumented immigrants. Guy Medaglia, a managing director at FTI Healthcare who has been interim CEO since 2007, credits the performance to initiatives that have strengthened the hospital's ties to the community. “We're kind of like a clinic on steroids,” Medaglia said. “There are still people who prefer a small, community setting. Not everybody wants to go to Walmart.”
OMAHA, Neb.—The 126-bed, all-private-room Methodist Women's Hospital opened in Omaha on June 21, with 32 patients admitted and 11 babies delivered—including a baby boy born almost 90 minutes before the hospital's official 7 a.m. opening time. About two hours later, a pair of twins was delivered. “It was a very busy first day,” said Methodist Health System spokesman Ed Rider. The five-story, 289,000-square-foot hospital cost about $120 million, and it includes advanced maternity and neonatal services, adult and neonatal intensive-care facilities, and an emergency department to serve men, women and children. Amenities include indoor and outdoor dining areas, a garden, a children's play area and a heated driveway to prevent snow and ice from collecting at the hospital entrance. Patient rooms are equipped with refrigerators, sleeper sofas, safes and free wireless Internet access. There is also an attached three-story, 150,000-square-foot medical office building.
CHICAGO—Whistle-blowers who brought a False Claims Act lawsuit against a prominent orthopedics group and Rush University Medical Center have filed an amended version of their complaint. The development comes three months after the U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement with the 681-bed teaching hospital that resolved allegations in the lawsuit involving prohibited lease agreements. The government declined to join the remaining aspects of the lawsuit, originally filed in 2004 by orthopedic surgeon Robert Goldberg and June Beecham, a former real estate director for the medical center. According to the whistle-blowers' revised complaint, Midwest Orthopaedics surgeons routinely booked overlapping procedures. The practice, in which the lawsuit contends Rush was “complicit,” allegedly led to claims to Medicare and Medicaid for surgeries mostly performed by residents without required supervision at the hospital and Rush SurgiCenter, a joint venture with physicians. “Rush believes that the lawsuit has no merit and intends to vigorously defend the case,” the medical center said in a written statement. In addition to Midwest Orthopaedics and Rush, the new version of the lawsuit individually targets six of Midwest's surgeons, including Richard Berger, known as a pioneer in minimally invasive hip and knee replacements. A written statement provided by the group's lawyer says that Midwest and the physicians named in the lawsuit “categorically deny” the allegations. “We will vigorously defend this case as we have done in the past when Dr. Goldberg has made frivolous and unsubstantiated charges against the practice and its physicians.” The statement notes that Goldberg previously sued the group unsuccessfully in the state courts.
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