A labor dispute at Women and Infants Hospital in Providence has erupted over the layoff of 16 staff members. The layoffs, and the dispute, turn on the definition of a single word: deliveries.
Members of the Service Employees International Union local 1199 are picketing outside Women and Infants over the hospital’s decision to cut several cleaning, lab, and clinical staff. Union spokesman Patrick Quinn says his members dispute the hospital’s claim that the number of deliveries – and therefore the need for as many staff – has dropped below 8500 over the past year.
“Our contract says that if we deliver 8500 babies then no one will be laid off," Quinn said. "That’s to protect the quality of work and to make sure that more work isn’t pushed on fewer people. The hospital’s trying to redefine delivery to mean a maternal admission. It’s a ridiculous argument. Anyone who’s a mother of twins or triplets or multiples knows there’s more than one delivery.”
But Women and Infants acting president Mark Marcantano disagrees.
“The language says ‘deliveries.’ And by almost all accounts and prevailing thinking on this issue," said Marcantano, "delivery is the experience of the mother delivering, no matter how many births there are, whether it’s a singleton, triplets, quad. That’s the way we get paid for the most part, that’s the way it’s judged.”
And he says while the hospital is committed to working with the union, it has to continue to find ways to streamline costs in the face of health care reform. Marcantano also points to the declining number of births in Rhode Island over the past few years, meaning fewer staff are needed.
Union spokesman Patrick Quinn says the union opposes the layoffs because they could undermine hospital cleanliness and patient safety. Women and Infants officials say that won’t be an issue.