Labor, Peace Rallies; Floods

A labor rally is set for July 17 in Springfield. Nurses are asking the community to join them in protesting corporate moves to make health care in the region worse. Nurses at Mercy Medical Center, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association union (www.MassNurses.org) will hold an informational picket outside the hospital on July 17 in response to Mercy's owner Trinity Health Corporation recently closing 20 intermediate care beds, “temporarily” closing other essential services without any indication they will be re-opened, and creating a staffing and patient care crisis. The rally will be from noon until 1 p.m. on the sidewalk outside Mercy Medical Center on Carew Street in Springfield.

“Trinity Health has broken promises to the Springfield community by taking over our local hospital while claiming to be ‘mission-driven,’ but then closing services, refusing to adequately staff and making it harder for patients to receive quality care," said Jaime Hyatt, registered nurse (RN) and co-chair of the union's contract bargaining committee. “Mercy patients and staff deserve better than Trinity’s heartless corporate ownership.”

Dee Doyle, RN, co-chair of the union's contract bargaining committee, said, “Mercy Medical Center nurses and the community are standing up to Trinity Health’s broken promises on behalf of our patients. Trinity is completely detached from the needs of local patients and caregivers. The lack of management is hurting our ability to provide quality care and work in a safe environment."

Michigan-based Trinity Health – a national hospital corporation that made $22 billion last year – has systematically dismantled essential healthcare services at Mercy Medical Center and Providence Behavioral Health Hospital over the past decade.

Trinity recently “temporarily” closed 20 of its intermediate care beds without advance notice to nurses or the union. Trinity claims the closure is necessary due to a lack of staffing. But this was really an artificial problem created by Trinity. Hospital management stopped a longstanding shift incentive bonus and has failed to hire nurses and other staff, causing a crisis.

The closure follows other “temporary” closures of respiratory and “neuro-ortho” services at Mercy. Those closures have been prolonged, with no indication they will be re-opened. Trinity followed the same game plan at Providence Hospital. Management artificially lowered “census” by diverting admissions and refusing to staff appropriately. It then systematically closed child, adult, and geriatric psychiatric beds and sold the hospital.

There is a serious lack of leadership at Mercy Medical Center. Management is splitting its time between Springfield and another Trinity facility, Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, CT, and not addressing the concerns of nurses and other staff.

In February 2023, Trinity issued a statement titled, “Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest health care systems, continues to grow strategically with reported operating revenue of $10.5 billion, an increase of 2.3 percent.” The growth came even though it saw a reduction of $129.3 million in CARES Act grants year over year, according to Trinity. Despite reporting an operating loss during the first six months of FY2023, Trinity highlighted several financial strengths:

Total assets of $30.9 billion and net assets of $17.0 billion.

Unrestricted cash and investments of $9.8 billion.

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In other news from the Valley, flooding in the county that's home to Brattleboro -- and in New York's Hudson river valley -- was the subject of a story on page 1 of the New York Times on July 11. The flooding is caused by climate change. The world's leading scientists say climate change is a major threat to earth's ability to support human life. Solutions to climate change are at:

www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/climate/

Other solutions include installing more rooftop solar, including on warehouses; protecting open space from development; banning cars, trucks and planes; and taxing the rich and using the money to improve Amtrak and to develop sailboats for commercial trans-Atlantic travel (bullet trains can connect cities like LA and New York, London and Seoul, and Paris and Cape Town). The U.S. military is a major cause of climate change.

Rallies, marches and strikes closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant near Brattleboro, won raises for hundreds of low wage Stop and Shop workers in the Pioneer Valley in 2019, won women the right to vote in the USA, and ended apartheid in South Africa.

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In other news from the Valley, in Greenfield 40 people attended a peace rally on July 8. The rally organizers have a web site at www.traprock.org.

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