Sunday , July 25 2021

Beaumont nurse anesthetists employed by NorthStar vote to create union

Nurse anesthetists at three of Beaumont Health’s Michigan hospitals voted Monday to form their own union, taking another step toward negotiating wages, benefits and patient care changes with their new employer, NorthStar Anesthesia.

The vote was 153-22 in favor, a union official said.

The next step in the coming days is for the National Labor Relations Board to certify the election results.

In early January, approximately 180 certified registered nurse anesthetists at Beaumont’s Royal Oak, Troy and Grosse Pointe, Mich. hospitals were outsourced by the Southfield-based not-for-profit health system to Irving, Texas-based NorthStar, which also began providing anesthesia services to Beaumont.

The CRNAs petitioned the NLRB to form a union under the name Southeast Michigan CRNAs & Associates, or SEMCA, said Sally Gribben, a CRNA at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak and president of SEMCA.

NorthStar CEO Adam Spiegel said the company will bargain in good faith with SEMCA after the NLRB certifies the election results.

“We have always supported our CRNAs’ right to decide for themselves whether or not to unionize,” Spiegel said in an email to Crain’s Monday night. “We would prefer to have a direct working relationship with our teammates and would have hoped the CRNAs would have given NorthStar time to prove ourselves as a great employer.

“We respect the outcome of this vote and will bargain in good faith with the union after the NLRB certifies the election result. We remain committed to continuing to build our relationship with the CRNAs at Beaumont Health.”

Two CRNAs at Beaumont’s northern hospitals previously told Crain’s they wanted to form a union to gain a seat at the policy table at each of the three Beaumont hospitals to directly advocate for safe staffing ratios and greater patient safety measures. They also want to negotiate wages and benefits such as guaranteed vacation time and regular breaks during the day.

“Beaumont respects the right of NorthStar’s CRNAs to join a union,” Beaumont said in a statement. “However, Beaumont believes having a direct relationship between managers and employees is best.”

In August, NorthStar started managing anesthesia services at Beaumont’s Dearborn, Taylor, Trenton and Wayne hospitals and their associated ambulatory surgery centers and pain clinics. Beaumont’s Royal Oak, Troy and Grosse Pointe hospitals were folded into the contract on Jan. 1.

But Beaumont’s eighth hospital, Beaumont Hospital, Farmington Hills, the former Botsford hospital, continues to use employed Beaumont CRNAs and a contract anesthesia team, Beaumont has said.

NorthStar employs about 250 CRNAs at seven of eight Beaumont hospitals. While it offers the CRNAs the same employment contracts, it has split hospitals into north and south groups.

SEMCA, if certified by the NLRB, would be the first unionized group of CRNAs at any of the 140 hospitals and medical centers in the U.S. where NorthStar manages anesthesiology services. The company employs more than 500 anesthesiologists and 2,000 CRNAs.

In Southeast Michigan, NorthStar has been contracting with six-hospital Detroit Medical Center since 2015. DMC is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. NorthStar also contracts with Spectrum Gerber Hospital in Fremont.

In 2018, NorthStar was acquired from TPG Growth by Cranemere, a London-based holding company that invests in health care and other businesses firms.

Last year, a group of registered nurses, including the CRNAs when they were Beaumont employees, attempted to form a larger union with the Michigan Nurses Association.

After settling unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB in late August, the MNA dropped representation of the union and the nurses dropped their union effort. The MNA said Beaumont’s anti-union campaign was too difficult to overcome.

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