ANTI-UNION: David Bussone of UHS
by Taylor Marsh, Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 02:46:44 PM EST
This coverage sponsored by the SEIU.
One hurdle crossed does not make a race won. This is a long distance struggle between nurses and for profit hospitals and the people who don't want unions like SEIU to get in the way. It's part of our national healthcare debate, which will only grow more acrimonious if everyone doesn't look at the realities. Think Progress and American Progress offer more, as does Julia. If you've seen more stories, please add them in the comments.
David Bussone, pictured above, is the man behind the lock-out of the SEIU nurses in Las Vegas. Below is an interview he gave in February 2006, which telegraphs the strife to come this past week. Bussone no longer flies underneath our radar.
Let's talk about the nursing shortage. What is the Valley Health System doing to recruit and retain nurses?
There are a number of things we're doing. We are trying to recruit nurses from other parts of the country. There are places in the United States where nurses are being laid off. Wisconsin for example - states that are losing population. The second thing that we're doing is we're certainly supporting efforts to home grow our own nurses. We offer nursing scholarships virtually on an unlimited basis to nurses in the local nursing programs. We've applied for a grant with UNLV and their School of Nursing to develop an internship program for nurses in order to stabilize that group of new graduates when they first go to work for a hospital. Going from the educational environment to the real world work environment can be very difficult, particularly when you're taking care of sick people. In some hospitals, we're also looking internationally in terms of nursing staff.
I don't know about you, but "home grow our nurses" sounds a bit dogmatic to me. Like a nurse farm system that makes nurses beholden to the people educating them on the profession that is actually a calling and something they will follow the rest of their lives. The loyalty factor for nurses coming up through a UHS nurse farm system would likely be obligatory. Then there's the obvious question. If a nurse coming up in Bussone's system decides she/he wants to leave what will be the financial ramifications? Will the nurse have to sign a contract prior to being educated in Bussone's nurse farm system that if she/he leaves all money will be due in "x" amount of time? Frankly, this seems inherently manipulative. It also smacks of anti-union bias, but maybe I'm being too harsh. It's not like I don't have a bias.
The Service Employees International Union Local 1107 now represents the majority of the nurses in the Las Vegas Valley although Summerlin's and Spring Valley's nurses are not among them. Is the relationship with the union improving and how does union representation affect nurse retention at Desert Springs and Valley hospitals?
I haven't been here that long to be able to tell you how the relationship with the union has been in the past. Based on what I've seen, I would have to say it's status quo. I don't know that I can answer the question about retention.
"Status quo" is a very odd answer. You'd think someone in the position of director of something as large as Valley Health Systems would at least make the effort to put forth some pr that shows flexibility in dealing with SEIU, at least in public and on the record. Perhaps say, "I'm looking forward to working with SEIU and the nurses to the patients' benefit, which is everyone's goal." But nooooo.
Consider this next little item as foreshadowing of the larger story still playing out between SEIU and David Bussone of UHS.
In 2006, most of the SEIU's contracts expire with the Valley Health System and other local hospitals. Is there concern about a nursing strike that could cripple the local hospitals? What is being done to avoid such a scenario?
You would probably need to ask the folks at the SEIU about the nursing strike part of it. I would hope not because it would have a pretty significant negative effect on the ability of any valley hospital that was struck. It would obviously impair our ability to take care of patients to some extent. It would also have a pretty devastating effect on the local economy. I would be concerned if I were a tourist getting ready to go to Las Vegas and were to read in the newspaper that a bunch of the hospitals were impacted by a strike.
Well, that's startling. Mr. Bussone abdicates any responsibility whatsoever for conditions that would cause union nurses to take action. In other words, strikes happen because of union nurses, not because of things like patient-to-nurse ratios, mandatory overtime, or "floating" nurses to stations in a hospital beyond their expertise. Bussone also admits something that goes counter to all the talking points recently put forth by the hospital administrators caught on camera during the SEIU nurse lock-out. That is, care for the patients was hurt by Bussone's decision to lock-out the nurses. Mind you, the nurses agreed to the cooling off period Bussone didn't want, but had to eventually swallow late yesterday, because public outcry and the progressive blogosphere raised a ruckus. But the coup de grace is when Bussone makes an outrageous inference that tourism, the lifeblood of Las Vegas, will be hurt by "a strike."
Translation: Blame the unions. Because the profit before patient corporations run by people like Bussone refuse to take responsibility for running a hospital short of nurses, while demanding things of these professional caregivers that are beyond any reasonable contract anyone should sign. But for Bussone and hospital administrators of his ilk, that's the point. He doesn't want no stinkin' contract. It's all about nurse farm systems that force loyalty, with every patient for him or herself.
All this, ladies and gentlemen, could be coming to a city near you.
NOTE: Commissioner Rory Reid and Speaker-elect Barbara Buckley, both of whom were inside the negotiations between SEIU and UHS, will be guests on Taylor Marsh LIVE! tomorrow, 6-7 p.m. eastern and 3-4 p.m. pacific, with podcasts available.