Crisis Averted (For Now) at Nashville General Hospital Thanks to Activism & Solidarity!

Union leaders confront Mayor Megan Barry after the surprise announcement from Meharry & HCA that could lead to cuts in jobs and patient services at General Hospital.

Union leaders confront Mayor Megan Barry after the surprise announcement from Meharry & HCA that could lead to cuts in jobs and patient services at General Hospital.

After SEIU members and community allies waged a grassroots campaign, Mayor Megan Barry finally agreed to a “reset” on her original plan to end inpatient services at Nashville General Hospital.

Barry’s pivot came after a surprise announcement on November 9 to restructure the hospital was revealed to the public during a press conference announcing a new partnership between Meharry and HCA. The Mayor’s proposal was short on specifics and contained inaccurate statistics about hospital beds, usage, and other metrics which caused a panic among hospital staff, patients, clergy and vendors.

Elected officials, hospital administrators, and healthcare advocates were completely caught off-guard by Barry’s announcement and had many of the mayor’s own supporters scratching their heads in confusion. In a discussion held at the Metro Council, the mayor’s chief financial officer and legal counsel both admitted they knew nothing about the proposal until shortly before it was made public.

SEIU members didn’t take the news lying down. Almost immediately, the union sprung into action as members spoke up at the Hospital Authority board meeting, turned out in droves to an emergency Metro Council meeting, wrote letters, called their council members, and engaged their churches, neighbors, and patients.

“If we as a union hadn’t pulled together and if we hadn’t worked together with our partners in the community, I honestly think that most of us would be out of jobs,” said Michael Foster, a service tech at General and SEIU member.

The union’s action, with help from our allies across the community, helped get the word out that the mayor’s proposal could threaten tens of millions in funding to the state’s safety net hospitals. It was also revealed that the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office would have to add another $3 million in its budget to pay for the changes the mayor was seeking since DCSO provides transportation and security for inmates who are served at General.

“We couldn’t have stopped this train as individuals. We needed to lock arms, stand together, work with our partners, and fight back,” said Myra Franklin, a registered nurse in General’s NICU.

The overall plan to create some kind of change at General Hospital is still in effect, though the mayor has conceded that it is ultimately the role of the Metro Council to implement any major changes at General after two councilmembers from opposite sides of the political spectrum announced a new ordinance that would prevent the mayor from acting unilaterally.

A proposed timeline by the mayor would now give her until December, 2018 to hear recommendations on “how we can come together as a community around a working model for the future”. The legislation in front of the Metro Council would extend the deadline to June, 2019 before any major decisions are made. There will be a new format in place engaging stakeholders to determine the future recommendations for General Hospital.

“This fight isn’t over yet and we’re going to need to keep doing this until the city gets the message once and for all: General Hospital needs to stay a safety net hospital and we’re going to do whatever it takes to keep it that way,” said Osa Richards, a registered nurse.

For all the latest news and updates on the struggle at Nashville General Hospital, join the “Save NGH” Facebook group or bookmark the “Save Nashville General” campaign website and sign their petition.

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