‘Be fair to those who care’: Medical professionals hold picket outside Landmark Medical Center

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WLNE) — Dozens of healthcare workers chanted “Be fair to those who care” while taking part of a informational picket outside Landmark Medical Center Thursday night.

The picket was held by United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5067, the union that represents health care workers employed at Landmark Medical Center, who has been negotiating a new contract.

The original contract ended in December, but an extension moved the expiration date to March 31.

UNAP said that Prime Healthcare, owners of Landmark, refuse to negotiate a contract with protections for patients and staff.

“Put simply, Landmark management, led by the out of state Prime Healthcare, has forgotten about the nurses and healthcare professionals who led Landmark Medical Center through the worst of the pandemic,” stated President Brenda Schobel.

“We are still in the throes of the pandemic, and they’ve already forgotten the sacrifices we made for the hospital and our patients, instead offering us a contract that increases our health insurance costs and pays us far below fair market rates. This contract proposal is a slap in the face to us and the work we do, and it will create an unsafe environment for patients in the hospital.” Schobel continued. “While top executives rake in big money and Prime takes in massive management fees,  they’re simultaneously refusing to provide a competitive wage and benefit package, which will result in a shortage of caregivers, creating dangerous conditions, and putting Landmark patients at risk. They’re more interested in lining their own pockets than ensuring the long-term stability of this community hospital that Woonsocket and other Blackstone Valley residents depend on.”

One of the issues highlighted at their event Thursday was the practice of floating, which moves nurses to cover units they might not be trained for.

Sandy Aubin, a nurse at Landmark, spoke on how that affects patient care.

“Not all nurses can work all the specialty units like LDRP, which is labor and delivery,” Aubin said, “You don’t want a nurse working in a covid room, coming back to take care of a mom who’s in labor and taking care of newborn babies. You don’t want nurses who’ve worked medical surgeries floating up to ICU or PCU.”

Staffing has been a nationwide problem throughout the pandemic, especially in the medical field. Those picketing explained how increased staffing can alleviate the problem but will only happen with competitive wages.

“There’s always staffing issues. Most of us have worked really hard to this, sometimes getting a double assignment to what we’re used to.” Brenda Schobel explained. “And I know everyone is short, I get it, but it’s not going to get any better if we’re not competitive.”

Sandy Aubin spoke on the matter as well, saying, “We are so underpaid compared to some of the other area hospitals…We get a lot of new nurses, we train them and then within six months, they’re gone because they know they can make more money someplace else.”

ABC 6 News reached out to Prime Healthcare, who released the following statement:

“For several months, Landmark has been in contract negotiations with United Nurses & Allied Professionals (UNAP). While it had been our hope that the contract would be successfully completed by now, it appears that we are at an impasse on some issues. We remain hopeful that the goals we share will provide the direction for reaching a fair contract — one that benefits our staff, patients, and community.”

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island, Woonsocket