Labor Union Asks Baystate To Reconsider Job Cuts

Even though the 1199 Service Employees International Union does not represent workers at Baystate Health — which recently announced it will cut 354 jobs — the union is asking the hospital system to reconsider eliminating those positions in light of a new infusion of $17 in federal funds Baystate is slated to receive as early as October.

Kyle Cheney of StateHouse News reports:

According to 1199SEIU, which boasts 42,000 members statewide, Baystate Health will receive $17 million under a new federal funding formula for “rural” hospitals implemented by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The union also pointed out that Baystate posted a $49 million profit in 2010 and has reported healthy operating margins.

A spokeswoman for Baystate Health, Jane Albert, questioned 1199SEIU’s call, noting that the union has “no connection” to Baystate Health. She also described the $17 million infusion of funds as the federal government “righting a wrong” by returning funds that had been taken away in previous years. Additionally, she said, the hospital’s $49 million operating margin in 2010 – on a $1.6 billion budget – has been used to make necessary capital investments.

“Forty-nine million dollars that’s all been reinvested doesn’t even reach the level we need . . . in order to invest in capital and our facilities and technology,” Albert said. “In the context of the entire operation of Baystate Health on a $1.6 billion budget, there are a lot of capital needs that as a nonprofit we have an obligation to do and to provide the best care for our patients...”

Baystate Health’s network – Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware and Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield – includes 783 beds and 10,000 employees, according to the company. More than 650 of those beds are located at the Springfield facility. The hospital is affiliated with Tufts University Medical Center, and 1199SEIU describes it as “Springfield’s largest private employer.”

Jeff Hall, a spokesman for 1199SEIU, acknowledged that the union has no members at Baystate Medical Center but added that officials had been contacted by hospital employees concerned about the layoffs.

The August 9 letter from SEIU's Executive President Veronica Turner to Baystate President Mark Tolosky here.

This program aired on August 10, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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