Local 5131 President to Inspira: Invest in Healthcare and Nursing - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Local 5131 President to Inspira: Invest in Healthcare and Nursing

From the Courier-Post

I am a registered nurse at Inspira Health System in Vineland and have worked there for over 20 years. I have watched our small hospital grow into a major corporation that dominates the health care market in South Jersey.

Inspira owns and operates four hospitals, more than 60 outpatient facilities, and plans to build a new hospital in Gloucester County. In 2015, Inspira reported profits of $59.9 million.

As nurses, we are glad for our hospital system’s prosperity, yet we struggle every day to provide our patients with the quality of care they deserve because of inadequate staffing levels. While we see millions being paid to executives and deals with board members, nurses are being told the hospital can’t afford to staff appropriately, or to provide the policies, wages or retirement security that help to keep nurses at the bedside.

Inspira appears to be leading the trend that local newspapers have called “medical millionaires.”

The former CEO of Inspira Health System Inc., Chet Kaletkowski, retired from the not-for-profit health system with over $2 million in total compensation in 2014, even though he worked only four months of that year. Kaletkowski’s successor, John DiAngelo, received a pay increase in 2014 of 59 percent of total compensation as compared to his 2013 salary as chief financial officer of Inspira.

Inspira board members also do fairly well from their service. From 2013 to 2014, Inspira and its affiliates reported “transactions with interested persons,” with $4.2 million in payments connected to board members.

Nurses want investments in patient care, nursing practice and in our communities’ health, not just in executives and board members. That’s why we are still at the bargaining table, advocating for a collective bargaining agreement that would assure that there are always enough qualified nurses at the bedside for our patients, and that we have policies that help us recruit and retain nurses.

We are still at the bedside, working to provide quality care while we fight for a fair contract that serves our patients as well as gives dignity to the nursing profession.

We know what it takes to provide quality care. It takes safe nurse staffing levels, and more than a decade of studies make it clear that the number of qualified, experienced nurses at the bedside is essential to patient outcomes, complications, safety and readmission rates.

I understand that health care has gone through some rapid changes in the last few decades — I have lived through, seen and experienced it in our health system. As hospitals merge into mega-systems, their focus too often becomes profit, and they fail to invest in healthy communities.

One thing that has remained constant is the nurse by the bedside who continues to provide the best care possible, even when we are understaffed and underresourced.

As Inspira continues its expansion in South Jersey, we call on Inspira’s management and board to remember their mission, and to prioritize investments in patient care, nursing and our communities.

Dana Barrett is president of Health Professionals and Allied Employees Local 5131. HPAE Locals 5131 and 5621 represent 1,300 registered nurses at four Inspira hospitals in Woodbury, Vineland, Bridgeton and Elmer. HPAE is New Jersey’s largest health care union, representing 13,000 nurses and health professionals in New Jersey and Philadelphia.