The Healthcare Industry Is Experiencing An Abrupt Change In Fortunes

by | May 19, 2022 | Healthcare, NLRB, OSHA, SEIU, Strikes

Nearly every industry continues to feel the strain heading out of the pandemic and into the land of inflation (and supply chain woes). Yet it’s difficult to argue the case for any industry under more pressure than healthcare. For one thing, the pandemic isn’t over for doctors, nurses, and other support staff in hospitals and related facilities. For another, the push-and-pull between healthcare systems and unions doesn’t ease existing pressure upon workers, who would undoubtedly welcome a break.

A break will not be forthcoming, given that federal aid dollars are drying up, even as Covid hospitalizations rose in 45 states over the past two weeks. Healthcare workers are (understandably) overwhelmed and demanding safer work environments, along with what they consider to be fair pay. All the while, unions are continuing to try to take advantage of the situation.

Let’s round up the latest news:

  • The doctors, as we recently told you, could soon be in the union house. That’s nebulous territory, since many physicians (as supervisors) may not have the right to organize under the NLRA. However, Biden’s NLRB ruled that Piedmont Health Services doctors (in North Carolina) can organize. The trend is now hitting California, where Stanford Health Care resident physicians voted to join the Committee of Interns and Residents branch of the SEIU. The CIR/SEIU also won a union drive among University of Southern California’s residents and physicians.

Meanwhile the loss of federal aid dollars translates into tightened belts, more brewing strikes, and layoffs that promise further workplace chaos:

  • The travel nursing pandemic-bubble led to astronomical salaries (rising up to triple the rate of staff registered nurses) for those health care professionals who traveled to help ease shortages during the height of Covid-19. Those nurses are seeing their premium wages fall by up to 50% as the industry’s focus shifts back to filling vacated nursing positions with full-time workers.
  • Hospital systems everywhere face financial downswings as higher expenses continue, partially because the pandemic isn’t truly over. 2022’s first quarter led to dismal results for Kaiser Permanente (based in California), Altamonte Springs (in Florida), and AdventHealth, all of which posted nine-digit losses.
  • Inflation could lead hospitals to lay off more staff, which happened in New York where 2 hospitals sent 4% of their workers to the door while citing rising costs. Although these vacated positions largely involve office support staff, it’s a sign of continued rough waters ahead for the healthcare industry.
  • Strikes continue for healthcare workers at prominent facilities, including at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai; however, multiple picket lines ended with no agreement between hospitals and workers. At Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii, mental health workers went on strike over chronic understaffing amid an increased need for their services.
  • Worker unease continues at hospitals with the majority of hospital staffers saying they personally witness workplace violence on a regular basis. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is pushing a bill (supported by nurse unions) that would direct OSHA to require plans from employers to address this safety issue.

The healthcare industry is bearing the brunt of many colliding sources of frustration. Not only are workers jousting with inflation and supply chain woes, but they’re still on the frontlines of Covid battles with no defined ending in sight. They want strong leadership that prioritizes their safety and other vital concerns in the workplace. If you are interested in what we’ve been doing recently to help improve healthcare workplaces, give us a call (800-888-9115).

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