For workers at Orlando Health, the last few months have been very tumultuous. First it was announced that workers would be forced take a pay cut, which prompted an online petition by Sarah Collins. Then the CEO of Orlando Health responded to the petition, with threats of more job cuts if workers did not accept the pay cuts. The pay cuts were then delayed for a few months in an effort to give workers ‘time to adjust’ to their loss in income.
After the pay cuts were first proposed workers began efforts to organize to bargain collectively with CEO Sherrie Sitarik. They join forces with National Nurses United and started collecting signature cards to elect NNU as their sole representative. Sitarik and her management staff were caught using illegal anti-union actions in an attempt to block the organizing efforts.
Yesterday workers at Orlando Health hospitals finally got some good news. The Orlando Health Board of Directors accepted Sherrie Sitarik’s resignation.
Dianna Morgan (Chairman of the Orlando Health Board) explained in an email to workers and the media:
Dear Orlando Health Team Members:
This message will be sent to the media at 5:00 pm this evening.
Orlando Health’s Board of Directors announced today that it has made the decision to transition leadership as we continue an ambitious strategic improvement effort. Sherrie Sitarik has stepped down as President and CEO, effective immediately. A nationwide search will begin in the next few weeks and an interim will be appointed shortly.
I know you share our commitment to position Orlando Health for a strong future at a time of great challenges for many healthcare organizations. Even as we recognize this need for change, we do so with deep gratitude for Sherrie’s service. Sherrie has made tremendous contributions to this great organization for more than 30 years. She is a great advocate for quality patient care and was instrumental in our ranking as an A-graded hospital system by the Leapfrog Group.”
Orlando Health will continue to move forward with strategic planning initiatives that benefit the communities we serve and which will serve to re-establish and maintain a strong financial position for the organization. Across Orlando Health we have capable and strong leaders and dedicated healthcare professionals who are committed to providing the very best in healthcare every day.
We also will continue collaborating with numerous community partners to strengthen our position in Central Florida and in support of our physicians and healthcare providers.
On behalf of the entire board, please accept my sincere thanks for your continued professionalism and dedication as we look to a strong future for our hospitals and facilities.
Chairman, Orlando Health Board of Directors
Upon hearing the news Sarah Lasher, a nurse in one of Orlando Health’s hospitals said:
“We will continue our organization efforts as we realize that Sherrie Sitarik’s resignation is merely a small piece of the big picture. Our fight is not just about the pay cuts as nursing is a labor of love. We have been the dedicated frontline caregivers who have always put our patients first. Orlando Health has its excellent reputation because of the work and dedication of the nurses and healthcare workers. Through collective bargaining, we can be the best patient advocates that our community deserves. We want to have a say in what the picture of healthcare at Orlando Health will look like now and in the future.”
The fight is not over, only delayed as Orlando Health looks for a new leader. Sarah Collins, the creator of the online petition to stop the pay cuts, told the NH Labor News:
“Our goals continue to keep the hospital viable through the delivery of care to our community. We will continue to organize a union to give ourselves a voice and will keep patient care and safety our top priority. Her exit doesn’t change our goals and demands. Her exit doesn’t change the fact that we still want a union and that we want to improve patient care. We don’t know her personal decisions to resign but we wish her well in the future.”
Workers at Orlando Health cannot rest easy yet because the proposed pay cuts are still in the works. Layoffs are still a potential. Layoffs would result in a reduction in patient care due to a higher nurse to patient ratio.
The fight for workers rights and patient care will continue in Orlando. The departure of CEO Sitarik is a good sign that their collective voices are being heard. Hopefully the new CEO will listen to the workers and put patients and workers ahead of profits.