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Maui hospital privatization paused as union fights ruling

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / JULY 2015

    Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku.

WAILUKU >> Privatizing three public hospitals is on hold as a union fights a lower court’s ruling.

The state attorney general filed a motion Friday asking that the transition process be allowed to continue, the Maui News reported.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals’ subsidiary Maui Health Systems is scheduled to take over running Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital by July 1.

“The court’s order came six weeks before the transfer to Kaiser,” Attorney General Doug Chin said. “By all accounts that is not enough time to reverse course and run the hospitals as public facilities.”

United Public Workers represents 1,500 Hawaii Health Systems Corp. employees. The group argues the law allowing the hospitals to privatize violates the contracts clause of the U.S. constitution and interferes with collective bargaining agreements.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor had dismissed the complaint in February and denied an injunction.

The union appealed her decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. On Tuesday, the court issued an injunction.

Union officials could not be reached for comment.

Gov. David Ige signed the law in 2015, and Chin said his top priority is protecting patients in Maui region hospitals. “Our motion offers the court a path to protect UPW members while the appeal is pending and simultaneously let the complex details of the implementation resume,” Chin said.

Maui Region chief executive officer Wesley Lo of Hawaii Health Systems Corp. expressed concerns about the injunction in a statement to the court.

“Running a hospital is an extremely complex business,” Lo said. “The transition must be implemented seamlessly in order to minimize any disruption to patient care. Any such disruption will jeopardize patient safety.”

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    • Agree 100%. Shut it down, everyone will lose their jobs, Maui will lose a hospital and when people complain when someone dies on Maui because their hosptial was closed, let them know it was the union that forced the closure

      • It must be a joy for you to be so small minded and have absolutely no capacity to intelligently understand the roles of all parties including unions. Rather than blame an entity whose purpose is to enforce law and constitution (which you may gain a bit of knowledge of if you took the time to “READ” HRS Chapter 89) why don’t you educate yourself– perhaps you will have a lot less to say because then you will realize how complicated the whole thing is. BUT perhaps that is too much to ask of someone like you.

      • The State won’t allow it to shut down regardless of how much money it’s losing. The Unions don’t care if the hospital is a money pit, all they care about is their civil service job. The legislature granted them 40 million in severance pay, they should be happy with that, it really shows just how much control and influence the public worker unions have over Hawaii democrats.
        The workers and nurses don’t want to work for a private operator who will actually expect them to perform to industry standards and the union doesn’t want to lose a few hundred paying members.
        That’s what this is all about.

  • the union had decades to make these hospitals work and they failed. I agree with Ige: we need excellent hospitals in those islands. Let privatization commence.

    • I think you misplace the responsibility for the financial failing of Maui’s hospital on the union and not on hospital administration and management. In the 2004 Maui Memorial Hospital was profitable. Same union and same workers were there when it was profitable. This privatization does NOT eliminate a union from representing the workers. It just might be a different union. But it is the state and hospital administration that negotiates any contract with whatever union that is representing the workers. So how do you figure it is the union’s fault that the hospitals are financially failing????

        • The bulk of the major hospital in Hawaii have unions representing their nurse, etc. Kaiser has a union representing their nurses. So according to your thinking if the union is the source of financial problems then ALL the hospitals should have financial problems.
          You also fail to address the FACT that Maui Memorial Hospital was PROFITABLE in 2004. The union was there all during that period. Now if the state officials and hospital administration agreed to an unfavorable contract, then these officials and administrations are at least in part to blame. You should also remember that in 2004 Dr. Ron Kwon tried to start a private hospital on Maui and it was the pressure and fear mongering lobbying of Wes Lo, MMMC CEO and gang and the STATE certificate of need that shot down that venture. So now we have a state hospital sinking into the red and the union is being used as a scrape goat.

      • It has been noted over and over that the inflexibility of the union to help with the hospital’s financial predicament is a major factor in its problems. The union would rather see the hospital close its doors and everyone lose their jobs before it even gives up one red cent. The union head was actually quoted as saying “F U” when he was asked about the union helping with the financial woes of the hospital.

        • Please site the link where the union head was “actually quoted as saying “F U” when he was asked about the union helping … I’d be interesting is reading your source. Otherwise you can’t make stuff up. I doubt your statement that the union “would rather see the hospital close its doors and everyone lose their jobs”. The union stands to lose big time if “everyone loses their jobs” and the “hospital closes its door”. In my opinion, your extremist characterization of unions, is fantasy blaming. Yes the present union does shoulder some of the blame due to their higher benefits and generous sick leave, retirement, etc. That is a problem with the state government employees union and NOT all unions. I hope your realize that there will eventually be a union to represent the bulk of the hospital workers even after Kaiser takes over.
          What Maui needed to solve this financial problem is accurate accounting of what went wrong from being profitable to being in debt. An audit should have been done, but it was shot down in the house of representative committee.

        • There is a big difference between government unions and private unions. Private unions, when business slows down, people get laid off or their hours get cut. Government unions they don’t give a S#!t if THE REAL TAX PAYERS get the pink slip or their hours get cut. Remember the furlough Fridays? That was one of the ways the government was going to bring the cost of government as THE REAL TAX PAYERS were getting laid off or their hours getting cut in th private sector; the unions cried like a bunch of babies, they did not want to help out, they believed they were entitled to full employement even though the TAXES were not coming to fill the government piggy bank.

        • “For people who look to sell our jobs out from under us; people who look to outsource services, deny what we have earned, try to cut our wages and benefits, and keep us down, I have a very simple two-word reaction: F*** You.” -Randy Perreira, union head, May 2014 biannual convention keynote address.

        • Thank you “what” for the source. I did read parts of Mr. Perriera address you cited. Yes he did say “F U” but he was addressing Andrew Walden the author of an article in Hawaii Free Press who he felt was blaming his union for all the hosptial’s financial woes. He did not say he would rather see the hospital close or everyone lose their jobs. What is more interesting to me is a reference I found to a 2009 Stroudwater Associate report/recommendation to the State. To me, the state should have acted on a lot of those recommendations then. To me, it is the State’s elected officials NOT acting on with urgency on those recommendations that has lead us to this situation. The state was told them to change civil service union contract or union to reflect those of the private sector. It is first and foremost our elected officials that are responsible for the public good, not the head of a union.

      • This is one of the reasons why unions don’t belong in government, it is THE REAL TAX PAYERS who are burdened and will be burdened if these non-profitable hospitals are not removed from the purse strings of THE REAL TAX PAYERS from the know nothing government employees.

      • Union extorted wages and benefits far in excess of what the hospital could pay and stay solvent. Also, union work rules seldom served the patient well.

        • That is not even possible.. Please educate yourself and read and try to understand the laws that govern unions in this State (HRS ch 89).

    • What does progress look like to you? No unions. Ok no negotiations for pay and benefits, no say of the employees who realize safety concerns for changes CEO’s want to make to save money, ummmm people die. Hmmmm… rather have it fast and people die or slow and safe and people are earning a wage they can afford to live on. Guess easy to say how slooow Unions are when you are not on the bed waiting for your life to be saved. But it could be faster and the person trying to save you could be a underpaid and unqualified person. Nice.

  • With privatization, care will deteriorate due to the needs of the bottom line and stockholders. It’s happened in facilities that are components of Hawaii Pacific Health.

    • You can add Queen’s to that list. Employees have been getting internal e-mail how the hospital lost over $6 million in the month of Feb and March alone and they are looking at ways to cut costs. Queen’s can absorb so much, everyone knows it has a vast amount of land but those lands can only produce so much before the piggy bank runs dryt. ALL of the hospitals in Hawaii are non-profit organizations; they are reimbursed via Medicare/Medicaid, Health Insurance, Obamacare. Anyone admitted in a hospital is given a diagnosis and that diagnosis has a flat rate cost via Medicare’s DRG. Let’s say someone is admitted for pneumonia: Medicare’s DRG reimbursement schedule says for that illness patient are supposed to be discharged on the fourth day, any days after that the hospital eat up the cost. The infamous Obomacare reimbursement schedule is based on patient’s satisfaction. So if you get kicked out of the hospital on the fourth day and you still feels lousy, of course you are going to rate your treatment as poor and in the end the hospital will get reimbursed less because of poor patient satisfaction. Insurers of course have their own reimbursement scchedule, so if the doctor or the hospital order other test that did not pertain to your diagnosis, the insurer can deny reimbursement for those test and in the end the hospital eat up those cost…..AND ALL OF THOSE ADD UP.

    • I don’t think so. Unions fight for workers. Laws (HRS Chapter 89) are found in Hawaii to govern that so please don’t think it is a lawless kingdom of unions controlling it all- Don’t think- while its an easy answer it is not an inteligent one if you know what role unions play and why.

    • This is a very good question. The union opposition and concerns was well documented throughout this the long discussion regarding privatization. The possibility of a suit should have been taken into consideration and addressed BEFORE coming to this junction in transition. It is obvious that union leadership that presently represents the hospital workers does not want to lose representation and union members at the hospital. So was a fair offer made to this union, similar to what other union hospital workers state wide (especially at Kaiser) make?? Was there an offer to mediate the benefits due to workers that will be changing to a new union, etc. ??? It would seem prudent that the leadership leading the change over and negotiation should have foreseen this coming and addressed this obvious issue.

  • The problem is inept managers. In all businesses private and public the buck stops with the administrators. The difficulty in goverment is that the administrators have multiple procedures to follow before discipline can become a reality. This is not only because of the union but also because of strict civil service rules regarding discipline. My point is that it takes a lengthy investigation based on facts and the majority of goverment supervisors would very frankly choose to look the other way. I was a goverment employee for thirty years and was a union steward and officer for half of my career. I left the union ranks to become a supervisor and continued to respect their duty to represent their members to the fullest extent possible. The reality however is that the administrators have the sole authority to manage the workforce and resources that they deem best for the efficiency of their operations. In other words if employees are not performiming their jobs in a satisfactory manner you can fail them on their job performance reports and for serious incidents initiate progressive discipline.

      • Yes I mean fired. Zero tolerance policies especially workplace violence have resulted in terminations. You can laugh because discipline is protected and a highly confidential action. Most people think that public employees cannot be terminated and that is a completely false rationale. Employees have been fired you just don’t know about it because parties involved are barred from making comments about it. The fact is that whole process is extremely time consuming and on average it takes two years from the termination to the arbitration process to be completed. That’s why most supervisors don’t want to go that route.

  • So does this mean,that the Hospital’s UPW workers will fall under the Kaiser Foundation and their designated Unions.They can’t remain in the UPW,cause this will cause friction with the Union already in place at Kaiser .
    For me? This is what happens when Government Union becomes more Powerful than their employers….The Tax Payer! Aren’t these Union people,the UPW union, supposed t be thinking about the future of their members? Or is it just me?

    • Ask yourself why the intermediate court of appeals ruled for an injunction. Simply put the UPW’s argument had merit and the court made an honorable ruling. A lot of these issues should have been negotiated prior to the hospitals being privatized. Google the Konno decision.

  • The management, board, people In Charge of a Community Asset…that we as taxpayers all pay for, failed in its direct responsibility to TAKE CARE OF OUR HOSPITAL AND MAKE RESPONSIBLE SUSTAINABLE, REASONABLE, decisions working WITH all parts of that hospital. Management was apparently saddled with a difficult union contract. Prior to their involvement?, I suppose

    But that means one thing. Work with the situation and expenses you’ve got. Don’t put in ridiculous programs that obviously cannot survive in a smaller population. MAUI Memorial simply cannot and never should have tried to compete with a highly population, and therefore community revenue supported, funded, major hospital, like The Queens. They overspent our money. Simply put they made terrible decisions not taking into account that they had neither the public, ON MAUI, usage of programs, like cardiac, or financial support to build and spend these dollars
    The unions were a known, specific, cost to each and every decision. Not understanding this, or worse, ignoring that cost component, is why Maui hospitals failed. Bad, ego driven, politically driven I wonder often, management

  • Example, I had a dying family member at Maui Memorial. I was not pleased with the care and especially the communication. This is a result of a good enough and the guy gone die anyway. Shame on that system!

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