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Nurses To Hold Candlelight Vigil To Raise Awareness Of Safety Concerns At Orlando Health Hospitals

After months of infighting with Orlando Health, the National Nurses United are bringing the focus of their organizing efforts back to where they should be, the patients.

National Nurses Organizing Committee FLWorkers at Orlando Health have been working with the National Nurses United to organize workers after Orlando Health announced pay cuts and layoffs.  The results of their organizing efforts has shown significant promise, in spite of blatant anti-union violations.  Orlando Health laid off hundreds of workers, and that is putting patients at risk.

The RNs say they are seeing a massive exodus of experienced nurses leaving to work in other hospitals due to the cuts, longer hours, and inadequate staffing.

“Since the first round of the shift differential cuts in Oct., we’ve definitely seen more experienced RNs feeling they have no choice but to leave. This is very troubling because experienced RNs are vital to maintaining quality patient care,” said Sarah Collins, RN, who works in the critical care nursery. “In my unit alone, RNs have been taking up to five infants, which exceeds the national standard. With so many patients, how can we expect to deliver safe and therapeutic patient care to the sick babies in our unit?

JAMAThe patient safety issues, that spurred the more than 5,000 RNs in eight hospitals to organize with the NNOC-FL last August, led the nurses to conduct a system-wide patient care survey. In preliminary findings, the two units of most concern are the emergency department at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) and a neo-natal intensive care unit at Winnie Palmer Hospital (WPH).

On Monday January 13th workers and community activists will hold a candlelight vigil to highlight these safety concerns.

What:  Orlando RNs Candle Light Vigil to Alert Public to Patient Safety Concerns

When:  Monday, Jan. 13, 2014
5:30 p.m. –6:30 p.m.

Where:   Lake Beauty, Orlando Regional Medical Center
1414 Kuhl Avenue ~ Orlando, FL 32806, (corner of Miller and Orange)

The vigil also coincides with a second round of cuts to night shift nurses pay, which goes into effect Sunday.

“We’ve expressed our concerns many times to OH administration, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” said Collins. “Now Orlando Health wants to worsen the blow with the second round of shift differential cuts. These cuts directly impact patient care. That’s why we’re holding a candle light vigil to mourn the loss of our experienced nurses and the loss of community health.”

The ORMC emergency department, where more than half the nurses responded, found that 80 percent of the RNs said that staffing is never, or at best, sometimes adequate. Further, 55 percent of those stated that the level of sickness of patients has increased over the last year.

“More and more people are coming to the ER for care and the number of patients each nurse is assigned has increased,” said Alina Capeles, an RN who works in the ORMC emergency department.

“Several of our most experienced RNs who have left because of the reductions are being replaced by new graduate nurses. There is insufficient time to properly train or orient these nurses,” said Capeles. “There have been layoffs and reductions of the number of radiology and CT scan technicians, which creates delays in care when they get backed up, as they often do. We have to pool all of our resources to get through the day, but I’m worried that the day will come when there just won’t be enough RNs to take care of a true emergency.”

The ongoing cuts and patient care reductions are occurring at the same time that Orlando Health is undergoing a costly expansion, and has reported a $271 million profit over the last four years. The RNs continue to press hospital officials to rescind the cuts and maintain and improve nurse-to-patient safe-staffing ratios and agree to a fair process for employees to organize a union without interference from hospital management.


NNOC-Florida is part of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest direct-care RN union, representing 185,000 members.

For more information contact: Jennifer Lemmon, 480-290-8187, or Liz Jacobs, RN, 510-273-2232



The NLRB Finds Merit In Anti-Union Complaints At Orlando Health

Yesterday it was announced that the NLRB has begun the settlement process stemming from complaints by workers organizing at Orlando Health hospitals.

At the end of 2013 the National Nurses United filed multiple complaints of harassment with the NLRB.

Jennifer Lemmon, Assistant Director of Organizing for National Nurses United explained the charges in an email to the NH Labor News.

The National Labor Relations Board contacted the Union and indicated that the Tampa Regional Office found merit to many of the Union’s allegations that Orlando Health hospitals have been violating federal labor law during the nurses’ Union organizing campaign.  The NLRB informed the Union that the hospitals will be allowed a chance to settle these allegations but that if they don’t, the NLRB’s General Counsel will prosecute the hospitals before a federal administrative law judge, alleging:

•     at Winnie Palmer Hospital : the employer created the impression that employees are under surveillance because of their union activity; interrogated employees about their Union activity;  made threats of unspecified reprisals to employees because of their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of nurses’ Union activity. 

 •     at Dr. Phillips Hospital : interrogated employees about their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

•     and at South Seminole Hospital also  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

The NH Labor News reported on these anti-union tactics back in September before charges were officially filed. What Orlando Health did not expect is that by pushing back against the organizing efforts it would solidify the workers and their strengthen their resolve to form a new union.

“We hope the hospitals do the right thing and settle these charges against them and allow nurses their federally protected right to organize a union without their interference,” said Jennifer Lemmon. “But if it comes to a trial and the Judge finds in  favor of the NLRB’s General Counsel, the Judge will make recommended findings to the NLRB’s 5-member Board, who are appointed by the president, and will order the hospitals to refrain from their unlawful actions.”

Organizing efforts began as Orlando Health arbitrarily cut workers pay and laid off hundreds of workers which began taking effect just this week.

“We’ve expressed our concerns many times to OH administration, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” said Sarah Collins, RN, who works in the critical care nursery. “Now Orlando Health wants to worsen the blow with the second round of shift differential cuts. These cuts directly impact patient care. That’s why we’re holding a candle light vigil to mourn the loss of our experienced nurses and the loss of community health.”

In a recent interview with Channel 9 WFTV in Orlando, the spokeswomen for Orlando Health, Kena Lewis, stated: “We haven’t done anything wrong and we’ll see what happens, but we don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong.”

If you have done nothing wrong why are you in resolution discussions with the NLRB?



LTE: After Sacrificing So Much, I Will Not Let Orlando Health Take That Away

Editor’s Note: One of the stories that I have been following is the organizing efforts of the workers at Orlando Health.  If you don’t remember their story click here, and here.  Today I am would like to share the life story of one brave woman who is leading the charge to unionize Orlando Health.  The sacrifices she made to become a nurse and raise a family are truly inspiring.  Now she will not sit idly by while Orlando Health tries to take that all away from her.  

From Left to Right Sarah Lasher, Sarah Collins, and Giovanni Garzon.

From Left to Right
Sarah Lasher, Sarah Collins, and Giovanni Garzon.

Sarah’s Story:

I know many of us have our different reasons for joining a union but here is my story.

I became a mother at 21 years of age and during the course of my twenties had my other two children. I always loved being a mom but with the economy being so tough, I had to work as well. I became a medical assistant and loved the medical field. However, as a medical assistant, I was often overworked and underpaid. My life changed when my aunt was dying from larynx cancer (never smoked) and she made me promise to become a nurse. She told me I would be a great nurse and I deserved better. Needless to say…I made a promise to her I intended to keep. Over the next two years I proceeded to take my pre-requisites for nursing school often working all day, picking kids up from daycare and attending classes at night. I thought that was hard, little did I know this was only the beginning. Then one day that letter came, I had got accepted to nursing school. My friends and family were so proud of me and were excited for me to start my journey. I thought, here I go Aunty Sandra…I am fulfilling my promise to you. I attended the orientation and that’s when the reality of what was to come hit me. The nursing director told the fresh, hopeful faces in the room that we could forget about seeing our families and working at all was not an option. Nursing school was our fulltime job and if we were not able to give it one hundred percent to drop out now. All I could say was “wow, how am I going to do this?” I went home feeling defeated and called my mother. She said “sarah, you can and will do this!” I got off the phone with her and put my babies to sleep. I watched them sleep that night and made a life changing decision. I needed to do this for my children so that they can have a better life. I wanted to make a difference in not only their lives but the lives of others. I made a promise that I intended to keep.

So….I started nursing school, worked full time, and raised my babies. There were many nights I would not get to bed until almost three in the morning just to wake up at five to take them to daycare by six am. Many nights that coffee pot was brewing and I would wake up only to find myself drooling on one of my nursing books. Many nights I would do homework with kids (my oldest and middle were in school as well), cook dinner, get their clothes ready for the next day, do laundry, dishes, tuck them in their beds and finally sit down to study . Many nights I lost sleep and worried I was missing out on my children growing up. We struggled financially since I worked just to pay for daycare but I kept telling myself “I made a promise I intend to keep”. I not only raised a family, worked full time, but was a straight A student in nursing school. I look back now and wonder how I did all that. Finally, the day came…graduation. My family flew in from Mass to come and celebrate my day. I remember walking across that stage and crying uncontrollably. The director of nursing looked at me and said “You proved me wrong, you did everything I said you shouldn’t and you did it well…I am proud of you.” I knew she was proud of me, as well as my family, and I knew my aunt was watching me from heaven.

I promise my story is almost over, LOL. Well I took my exam and became an official RN. Wow…I did it..I am a nurse. I became a nurse and started work in NICU and have never left..but that is another story for another day. The point is I will never ever get those years back with my children. I made sacrifices, sacrificing my sleep, health and family time. I know in my heart a lot of you can relate to this story and have also made life changing sacrifices. The point is…we have worked hard to get where we are and Orlando Health wants to put a price tag on the sacrifices we have made. THERE IS NO PRICE TAG for missing out on your family. I am grateful to be who I am and to do what I do. I made a promise and I kept it. Orlando Health promises to put patients first but we all know that’s not happening. They also need to put their STAFF first who are the ones who have struggled to get where we are, who have made sacrifices to do what we do, and continue to do so. You see…WE put the patients first…before ourselves. The staff are the reason they have the reputation that they do. They need to realize that and the only way to make them see this is through a UNION. So dayshifters … nightshifters … this is a gift we should give ourselves. Lets make a promise to OURSELVES and TO EACH OTHER that we intend to keep.

Sarah Lasher
Orlando, Florida

Workers Rejoice And Continue Organizing Efforts As Orlando Health CEO Sherrie Sitarik Resigns

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.

Sherrie Sitarik - grayAfter 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.


Dianna Morgan
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.

Orlando Health Deploys Anti-Union Tactics Bringing Workers Closer Together

Nurses and Respiratory Therapists from Orlando Hospitals deliver petitions to Sherrie Sitarik. (Sarah Collins second from left, Sarah Lasher, third from left)

Nurses and Respiratory Therapists from Orlando Hospitals deliver petitions to Sherrie Sitarik. (Sarah Collins second from left, Sarah Lasher, third from left)

A couple of months ago Sherrie Sitarik the CEO of Orlando Health stated that hospital worker’s differentials would be cut in an effort to save on operating costs.  In a recent interview on WFTV, Sitarik said the cut was to bring differentials more in line with other area hospitals.   This is just a corporate excuse to push workers down.

The workers are not buying it.  Sarah Lasher a nurse in one of Orlando Health’s hospitals is looking to organize the workers with National Nurses United.  NNU is one of the unions that specialize in representing workers in the medical field.   Sarah and NNU have quickly gained support from other workers at Orlando Health who are fed up with Sitarik’s race to the bottom.

As you would expect, Sitarik does not want workers to organize and form a union.  Sitarik told WFTV, “I really don’t believe we need a third party getting involved in relationships that over many years have allowed us to have the success we’ve had.”

There are two things wrong with that statement.

  1. A union is not a third party.  It is workers speaking with one voice.  The workers are the union, and the union speaks for the workers.
  2. If the relationship is so good, why is Orlando Health slashing the take home pay of workers without any discussion with the employees? If the workers were truly happy and treated well they would not be forming a union.

After the announcement that workers were in the process of forming a union, management deployed their anti-union tactics.

WFTV reports: “Eyewitness News obtained an email that suggests what hospital security officers should do if they hear nurses at Orlando Health talking about forming a union. 

The email, “Union Training for Security Officers,” was sent out by the hospital’s head of security.

In part, it instructs security officers to “immediately alert their supervisor if they see or hear any potentially inappropriate collective bargaining activity while on duty.”

Sarah Lasher told WFTV, “We’re entitled to do so, and does that mean that we’re going to have security strolling by our tables while we’re eating and listening to what we say? This concerns me.”

Sarah Collins, the creator of the original petition to stop the pay cuts told the NH Labor News, “We will not be swayed by the Organization’s anti-union pursuits. We know our rights, and we are going to fight for them.

The right to organize and form a union is protected by the National Labor Relations Act.   After nurses found out about the leaked email, they sent their own letter to CEO Sitarik notifying her of the illegal activities being conducted by her management staff.

“We appreciate your commitment to our rights and for us to have full information as we make our decisions with regards to collective bargaining.  You may not know that hospital supervisors are ordering us not to discuss forming a union or to talk about collective bargaining.  Additionally, the supervisors are confiscating and destroying our reading materials, and directing security to spy on us and report our conversations.  A good start toward respecting our rights would be for you to order that these violations be stopped.

Sarah Lasher explained in more detail how workers rights to organize are being crushed by management officials.

They have changed their solicitation policy TWICE in the past month and the new one states we are not allowed to visit our campus we work at unless we are scheduled to work, have a doctor’s appointment, or have a class. 

We have never been denied access before and that is unacceptable.”

This is contrary to what the law clearly states, that workers are allowed to organized while off-duty or on break.

Sarah Lasher did say that she spoke with some mangers from the Human Resources department.  Lasher questioned why they were not allowed on campus during off-duty times.  One manager, Michelle Radcliffe responded by asking another question. “Why would you need to come up here if you were not working or didn’t have an appointment or class?” Lasher responded, “to put up my union posters in appropriate areas.” Radcliffe ended the conversation by stating, “well its just not safe.

It is not safe for a trained professional to walk around the campus of the hospital they work at? The truth is they do not want workers posting pro-union materials.

We have the right to organize and we are exercising that right,” said Sarah Collins.

This is why it is important to know your rights.  You have the to form a union, and collectively bargain with your employer.  These types of anti-union activities are far too common and the more people that know their rights the easier it will be to stop this type of activity.
(Click here to see your rights to form a union in your workplace)

Workers At Orlando Health Hospitals Are Not Backing Down, Nor Should They

The struggle between Orlando Health and its employees has really started to make waves.

There has been mainstream media coverage, here and here.

Read the NH Labor News articles on the situation, here and here.

Just so we are all on the same page, let’s recap.  The CEO of Orlando Health, Sherrie Satirik, says the hospitals are loosing money and they need to save over $18 million a year.  To make these saving a reality, the CEO and Executive board have decided to cut all night and weekend differentials from their workers.  This is going to cost workers between $7,000 and $15,000 a year.

Let’s not forget that the that Orlando Region Medical Center (a part of Orlando Health) is home to John Hillenmeyer, ranked as one of the top 25 highest paid non-profit hospital CEOs in the country.  Add into the fact that executives at Orlando Health pocketed $10.3 million in compensation last year.

It sure seems like they could make a few revisions to their executive compensation package, and that would help to balance their budget a little.

As of now over 4,000 people have signed a petition started by a RN at Winnie Parker Hospital asking Orlando Health to reconsider cutting the workers’ differentials.

It appears they are getting noticed.  The CEO of Orlando Health, Sherrie Sitarik, announced that Orlando Health would be delaying the forced pay cuts for one month.   Despite the delay, a spokesperson for Orlando Health said the decision to make the cuts is final: “that cannot be changed.”

JAMASitarik also warned that if the workers really wanted to keep these differentials, that Orlando Health would be “forced” to make another round of layoffs – of more than 300 employees.   Fewer nurses means higher nurse-to-patient ratios, lower quality-of-care, and higher mortality rates.  (Read the JAMA article “Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction” here.)

Some are wondering if the corporation had planned to lay off more workers even before they announced the pay cuts.  On August 2nd. the Orlando Health spokesperson told WFTV:

“Efficiency enhancements, expense reduction, restructuring processes, and reorganization of staff, are expected as part of this ongoing process.”

 This was days before Orlando Health announced they would be cutting workers’ pay.

National Nurses United has offered assistance to the workers – and it looks like they may need the outside help.

Eilynn Mcgowan, a RN from an Orlando Health hospital, told me “there are many people behind the scenes offering support but are afraid to step forward.” They are afraid they will lose their jobs if they speak out.  While Mcgowan is also worried about losing her job, she said “At some point people need to stop being afraid because that is what they (Orlando Health) want.  I refuse to back down to them.”

Mcgowan – like other Orlando Health nurses and staff – is angry that these cuts are coming after employees worked so hard to get MAGNET Hospital status.  Mcgowan said a lot of the MAGNET status accreditation comes from nurse’s satisfaction.

“A Magnet hospital is stated to be one where nursing delivers excellent patient outcomes, where nurses have a high level of job satisfaction, and where there is a low staff nurse turnover rate and appropriate grievance resolution. Magnet status is also said to indicate nursing involvement in data collection and decision-making in patient care delivery. The idea is that Magnet nursing leaders value staff nurses, involve them in shaping research-based nursing practice, and encourage and reward them for advancing in nursing practice. Magnet hospitals are supposed to have open communication between nurses and other members of the health care team, and an appropriate personnel mix to attain the best patient outcomes and staff work environment.” (1)

Arnold Palmer Hospital was recognized as a MAGNET hospital in 2013.  It’s not that many months later.  How can these hospitals say they are “listening to their staff” while they arbitrarily cut pay and lay off workers?

Being a MAGNET hospital means a lot to workers and to patients.

An October 2011 study by Linda Aiken and colleagues found that Magnet hospitals “have better work environments, a more highly educated nursing workforce, superior nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, and higher nurse satisfaction than non- Magnet hospitals.” (2)

Click here for more information on why hospitals and staff push for magnet status.

There is another reason that Orlando Health and Arnold Palmer Hospital pushed for MAGNET status. Like everything else in the corporate world it all boils down to money.  MAGNET Hospitals become a part of the pay for performance system.

“Medicare will launch the hospital VBP program, in which pay-for-performance programs will receive incentives for demonstrated excellence and improvements in patient safety and effective care.” (3)

This means that MAGNET hospitals get more money in reimbursement and extra incentives.

Eilynn Mcgowan told me the she firmly believed that “Orlando Health must have been planning these cuts before they received their MAGNET status”.   Hindsight is always 20/20.  Corporate executives don’t make decisions like this overnight.  She is obviously correct.

In November of 2012 the Orlando Sentinel reported:

“In the largest staff reduction in its nearly 100-year history, Orlando Health is cutting up to 400 jobs starting immediately, hospital system officials announced Monday.  The move is part of a broader effort to position the hospital system for the health-care overhaul, CEO Sherrie Sitarik said.

The elimination of jobs will occur in two phases and represents a 2 percent to 3 percent reduction in the system’s 16,000-person work force, said Orlando Health spokeswoman Kena Lewis. The cuts affect all departments and all eight of the system’s hospitals, including Orlando Regional Medical Center and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, two of the system’s better-known facilities.”  (Emphasis added)

The second phase of those cuts were announced on August 2nd of this year.

This whole thing sounds fishy.  They laid off hundreds of workers, while pushing the staff to tell the accreditation team that they were happy and respected in their jobs, all to get MAGNET status.  Then after they get MAGNET status, they stick it to the workers with more layoffs and pay cuts.

It makes you wonder: what would these workers say now, if they were asked those same questions today?

The workers at Orlando Health hospitals are not taking this laying down.  They started a petition and are quickly organizing to form a solid negotiating team to fight back against these cuts.  Even if you do not work for Orlando Health – if you support these hard working people, start by signing their petition.

Orlando Health President And CEO Responds To Nurse’s Petition To Stop Pay Cuts

If you do not know the story behind Orlando Health workers being forced to take drastic pay cuts, read this post (Orlando Health, Balancing Bad Financing On The Backs Of Workers) first.

Response from Orlando Health President and CEO Sherrie Sitarik

Sherrie Sitarik - grayWe know a number of team members affected by the announced premium pay reductions have posted a petition requesting that we not implement the proposed reductions. Some have even proposed that nurses stage a walkout to protest these cuts. On the public posting section of the online petition one individual appropriately expressed concern that a walkout could potentially hurt patients, but another posted the comment that if a walkout harms patients it is a “necessary evil.”

We seriously doubt this last comment was made by an Orlando Health team member. This section of the online feature is not limited to Orlando Health team members but is open to any member of the public who wishes to express an opinion. Every member of the Orlando Health team is committed to putting our patients first and we hope and trust that all team members recognize there are better ways to communicate even if they feel strongly about an issue.

We appreciate that this will require a difficult adjustment for those who will be affected by these cuts, but we must keep our eye on the big picture. Our collective responsibility is to maintain the continuing viability of Orlando Health in the interests of all team members and the community we serve. Change will be difficult but change must occur. The reduction primarily affects those team members who consistently work the night shift. Those subject to the most significant reduction currently receive shift differentials which are at or above the 90th percentile of the southeast market, which is above what other hospitals pay, on average, for night shift differentials. The highest shift differentials have been paid on the basis of a grandfathering arrangement which was instituted in 2007. Please remember this change does not impact base pay.

We cannot perpetuate “over the market” pay premiums without regard to the economic realities we are facing. To do so would be to jeopardize the hospital’s ongoing viability and everyone’s job security. By bringing pay premiums in line with the market, Orlando Health will reduce costs by an estimated $18 million annually. Making these adjustments now will save many jobs.

As I mentioned in my recent video, we are beginning the difficult process of implementing our Value Creation initiatives now. This process could take a year, to a year and a half to complete. While we may consider a brief delay in implementing the announced premium pay reductions, we cannot begin the essential and necessary Value Creation process by abandoning one of our first initiatives at the outset. This initiative was developed based upon a thorough economic analysis and meaningful deliberation among a number of stakeholders including nursing team members and we reached a consensus that this would significantly reduce costs and minimize job losses. Again, this one measure will reduce costs by an estimated $18 million a year and making this change now will save jobs.

As I promised in my recent comments, we will begin the process of meeting and engaging with managers and team members to identify and describe the Value Creation recommendations that may apply to them. Managers, physicians and team members will have the chance to:

• ask questions, provide input and share ideas;
• discuss the steps needed to implement process changes; and
• discuss the overall time table for the implementation.

This series of meetings will likely take place over a number of weeks.

Even after these meetings are concluded we are committed to scheduling follow-up sessions periodically as the Value Creation process unfolds. Successful implementation of work process improvements will be dependent upon the ongoing collaboration and cooperation of everyone involved.

I do have empathy for those team members most affected by organizational change. It is not easy and it is not a reflection on you, the quality of your work or your value as a team member. This is by far the greatest challenge Orlando Health has faced in my 37-year career here as a caregiver and administrator. It would be my desire not to make changes that affect team members, both staff and executive level management, but that would be to ignore the new economic realities of healthcare.

As an organization we will remain committed to meeting the healthcare needs of our patients, families and the communities we serve. However, to continue fulfilling our healthcare mission we must adjust to new healthcare delivery and reimbursement models. The actions we take today and in the next year and a half are proactive steps to reduce expenses, increase efficiencies, and achieve quality outcomes without compromising patient care. In addition, they will help ensure our viability for the long term.

After reading this I have a few questions of my own.  Sherrie Sitarik, how much of your pay do you plan to cut?  Does the President and CEO have to take a pay cut to help reduce costs?   What about the rest of the 19 Executive Vice Presidents?

If  you Sherrie are cutting the pay of the workers by upwards of 10% then it would only be reasonable to ask you to take a 10% pay cut as well.

This response does not answer anything.  To me it is a giant middle finger to all of the dedicated workers in the Orlando Health system who are going to be forced into a pay reduction.

If you have not already signed onto to Sarah Collin’s petition please do so now.  Help the working people take a stand against these drastic cuts!

Orlando Health, Balancing Bad Financing On The Backs Of Workers

Emergancy Room

Stop and think for a moment: who do you consider to be the hardest working people in any industry? I bet nurses are somewhere in your top five.  Nurses have a long and distinguished history of being hard working and caring individuals, who help people who cannot help themselves.

This is why I am disgusted at the actions being taken by the Orlando Health system.  Orlando Health is a non-profit hospital system in central Florida.  They are about to impose drastic pay cuts on these hard-working men and women.  I should say women and a few men.  Women make up over 90% of all registered nurses in the United States.  Another staggering fact is that the average age of a registered nurse is 46.  How many of them are mothers or grandmothers?

I know all about the work that these women do.  My mother was a registered nurse for nearly 40 years before she was forced into an early retirement due to chronic back problems.

Here is my problem with Orlando Health.  They are imposing drastic changes to the pay by cutting night and weekend differentials.  According to Sarah Collins a registered nurse at Winnie Parker Hospital for Women and Babies this means a loss of $600 per month, or $7000-$15,000 annually.

Why?  Why the drastic cuts to workers’ pay?  It’s not to increase their profit margins – this is supposedly a non-profit organization.  So where is all the money going? 

First: To the corporate executives.

The Orlando Business Journal reported:

“Becker’s Hospital Review’s list of top paid executives for non-profit health systems has two Central Florida names on the list. … John Hillenmeyer, former CEO of Orlando Regional Medical Center, made $1.25 million in 2010.”

According to Orlando Health’s latest Form 990,

  • Hillenmayer received more than $2.2 million in compensation in 2011; and
  • Orlando Health has 19 different Vice Presidents – including six who each received more than a half-million in compensation in 2011;
  • Orlando Health spent more than $10.3 million on compensation for “key” executives.

Second:  Into building projects.

Orlando Health is spending $297 million on renovation and expansion projects at the very same time they can’t seem to find the money to pay the nurses who actually take care of their patients.

To add insult to injury, these drastic cuts come after Orlando Health chopped hundreds of jobs last November.  Other workers had their hours reduced, during that round of cutbacks.

And now people are waiting over two hours in the emergency room.

If you are as outraged at these cuts as I am, then take one minute and sign Sarah’s petition.

On the petition site, Sarah says that Orlando Health refuses to negotiate with the staff.

Being a son of a union nurse, I know that at times efforts to negotiate can be very one-sided.  In my mother’s case, it wasn’t until the entire nursing staff and support staff walked out that the hospital really started to listen.  But when the hospital was nearly forced to close their doors due to a lack of staff, suddenly they wanted to talk.

Unfortunately, these workers at Orlando Health do not have any union representation – but even without a union, a collective voice will not be ignored.  Please take a minute and sign Sarah’s petition.

I think some union elections will be in their near future!

UPDATED 8-16-13

Read the response to this petition from CEO and President Sherrie Sitarik that was posted for all employees on the Orlando Health website.

UPDATED 8-17-13

National Nurses United a union that represents thousands of hospital staff workers throughout the country has sent a letter to inform everyone of their rights to organize a union.  Since the letter was not given to the NHLN you must read it on the Orlando Business Journal.

The union wants to help, and they can help.  Know your rights!

The letter begins…..

Dear Orlando Health RNs and other Health Care Providers:

Here are answers to your requests for information about your efforts to protect yourselves from pay cuts and other reductions in your working conditions. If you find this helpful, feel free to forward this message to others. You may contact NNOC-Florida at florida@nnoc.net.

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