For Immediate Release
Contact: Dawn Kettinger, 517.721.9688
At Town Hall Meeting, Nurses Say Traverse City’s Largest Hospital Puts Profits Before Workers and Patients
New Community Organization to Advocate for Quality, Affordable Health Care in Northern Michigan
(Traverse City, MI) Nurses and community supporters say Munson Medical Center, a unit of Munson Healthcare, is putting profits before workers and patients and can do more to provide access to quality health care.
At a Community Town Hall at the Traverse City Library, nurses and local residents launched a new organization – the Northern Michigan Alliance for Healthcare Justice – to address gaps in the health care system in Traverse City, Manistee and other locations.
“Traverse City is a beautiful area and an attractive destination,” said Meg Zammit, a local realtor who will serve on the board of the Alliance. “I can tell you from meeting with clients who want to locate here: Quality, affordable health care is high on the list of resources we need to attract the families and businesses that will continue to grow our community.”
A majority of nurses at Munson Medical Center voted to form a union in August 2017 and are now negotiating a first contract agreement. The hospital’s most recent economic offer, however, proposed inadequate pay increases and did not include any contractual guarantees for health care, retirement compensation, disability pay or other benefits.
Nurses at Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital are also fighting for the well-being of patients in their community. They are currently negotiating for a new contract that will recognize their contributions to patients and quality health care.
Several Munson nurses at the Town Hall event spoke about the hardship caused by Munson’s current employee health plan, which is the lowest-quality, highest-cost plan legally allowed under federal law.
“We do our best to provide the best possible care for our patients, every day on every shift,” says Lori Smith, a nurse with 27 years of experience at Munson. “But when it comes to the health needs of ourselves and our families, we’re treated like second-class citizens.”
After an emergency room visit to Munson with her son, Smith was referred to a different facility for longer-term treatment. “They harassed me about payment on the way out the door,” recalls Smith. “Then they hit me with a bill so big I had to borrow from my retirement fund to pay it off.”
Munson patients who are not employees experience similar treatment, nurses say, with an aggressive approach to upfront payment and long-term medical debt.
“You get the feeling they are more concerned about payment than taking care of people,” says Carolyn Taratuta, a nurse who has worked at Munson for 28 years. The day before a scheduled procedure at a Munson-affiliated clinic, Taratuta received a call demanding payment, in advance, for her share of medical costs.
High medical bills are a challenge for nurses, says Taratuta, because of substandard wages at Munson. “Traverse City is an expensive place to live,” she says. “A lot of nurses I know have second jobs just to make ends meet.”
“You hate to see nurses who train here and want to stay here forced to relocate because they can’t keep up with the cost of living in this area,” said Zammit. “One of the goals of the Alliance will be to raise awareness of this issue and bring all parties together so we can find real solutions that work for everyone.”
Munson Medical Center nurses are affiliated with the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA). MNA is the largest, most effective union for registered nurses in Michigan, advocating for nurses and their patients at the State Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table.