The Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) filed a charge against Hackensack Meridian Health for unlawful discipline and termination of unionized health care workers and for retaliating against their workers who are not only providing care, according to the union, but also demanding to have the protective equipment they need to stay safe on the front lines.
The union, which represents 13,000 registered nurses and health care professionals, filed a whistleblower complaint with OHSA, and a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
“We are about a month into a battle against this pandemic outbreak in New Jersey the likes of which we have never seen. New Jersey is facing a potential health care worker shortage and despite the great need for frontline caregivers, Hackensack Meridian Health is intimidating and silencing employees on the front lines of this battle,” said HPAE President Debbie White.
White said she was informed of the termination of one of HPAE’s members, a nurse at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
She said that the employee was fired for “simply defending a fellow nurse being disciplined by Hackensack Meridian.”
“This is no time for heavy-handed tactics targeting nurses and health care workers who speak out to protect themselves and their colleagues. During these challenging times, we would expect employers to work collaboratively with labor to recruit and return nurses and health care workers who are in high demand at this time.”
White added, “These are difficult times for all and our union members continue to stand together to defend the rights of workers to demand the protection they need in this war against COVID-19.”
“Hackensack Meridian Health should stand with health care workers not intimidate and silence them,” said White.
In response to the lawsuit, Hackensack Meridian Health said that the claims made by the union are untrue.
“We have done and will continue to do everything to ensure our team members have the proper personal protective equipment. We secure supplies and equipment from across the country and the world to keep our team members safe. We have been successful in doing this,” said Nancy Corcoran-Davidoff, executive vice president, chief experience and human resources officer for Hackensack Meridian Health.
Corcoran-Davidoff said that throughout the day, Hackensack Meridian evaluates PPE supplies through its command center to make sure there are appropriate supply levels at each of its hospitals on an ongoing basis.
“We were the first network in New Jersey to implement universal masking to further protect all team members, we provide education, guidelines and policies to our team members and update as needed.”
Corcoran-Davidoff added, “We have policies and procedures in place to protect our team members and patients that are all in accordance with CDC guidelines. The current global health care crisis does not negate their importance. Our priorities are to provide a safe work environment for our team members so they can provide the best possible care for our patients.”
She said that there hasn’t been an instance of a team member being disciplined or terminated for expressing their views regarding PPE anywhere in the network, including at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
“The union claims that we intimidate and don’t allow people to speak up. Absolutely false. Nothing can be further from the truth,” said Corcoran-Davidoff.
She said that Hackensack Meridian encourages bottom up communication and constantly provides robust and clear communications including daily communications, sent once or twice a day, to all 38,000 team members and 6,000 physicians; daily safety huddles to provide team members with updates and provide an opportunity to ask questions; and open webinars twice a week.
In addition, Corcoran-Davidoff said that team members could ask questions and get answers in real time. She noted that open Town Halls with experts provide updates and answer questions.
“Let us be clear. We are fighting this pandemic, and we will win because of the brave nurses who are sacrificing so much to heal those who are suffering right now. The nurses at Hackensack Meridian Health are the best in the country and we are fortunate and proud to have them caring for our patients,” said Corcoran-Davidoff.