AFL-CIO Opposes Lifespan Merger (posted February 12, 2000)
The Rhode Island AFL-CIO announced in a press release this week that it opposes the proposed merger between Lifespan and Care New England hospital systems. AFL-CIO President Frank Montanaro stated, "The Executive Board of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO has voted unanimously to oppose the merger of Lifespan and Care New England. This proposed merger of Lifespan and Care New England will create a virtual monopoly in the health care provider community. A monopoly that will place working people directly in harm's way. It is anti-patient, anti-worker, and will ultimately lead to a deterioration of quality health care. We have agreed to mobilize union households in the state in opposition to this proposed merger to preserve accessibility and affordability within our health care system."
The proposed merger between Lifespan and Care New England is presently being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Rhode Island Attorney General's office. Union officials cited a series of potential problems the proposed merger could cause for Rhode Island's working families:
- A cutback in consumer accessibility. Cutbacks to important programs are inevitable. Lifespan has already ceased operating the Poison Control Center.
- The merger will create a new hospital system, controlling over 56% of all hospital beds in Rhode Island. The monopoly of hospital beds under the control of a merged system will adversely impact the consumer by forcing health insurers to negotiate with only one dominant group. We are concerned that there could be a crippling impact on other health care institutions who are not part of the merger.
- Health care workers employed within the systems will be faced with layoffs and job consolidations. Workers have already seen the effects of cutbacks within both systems. Lifespan announced the layoff of 269 workers less than 1 year ago. The layoffs included workers from the Providence Visiting Nurse Association and the Bradley Hospital, which administers psychiatric treatment to children. Additionally, pediatric nurse practitioners, social workers, and other medical support staff were also laid off from Lifespan hospitals.
- A merger of two organizations who have already demonstrated they are more concerned about the compensation of past and present executives rather than quality care will not be in the best interest of patients. To add insult to injury, Lifespan has spent over $14 million for the consultants from Ernst and Young to tell the already high-paid executives what they were doing wrong. The new system will be a breeding ground for further excessive executive compensation. In fact, it appears that the only job security in the proposed merger will be for administrative personnel who make above $100,000 per year and never see a patient.
President Montanaro concluded, "While we are fully cognizant that a heath care crisis exists in Rhode Island, creating a monopoly in our hospital system is counterproductive to finding a permanent solution. The approval of this monopolistic merger would just place patients' and health care workers' interests in a more precarious position."