2015 interview with Chief Nursing Executive shows anti-union sentiment

Sunday, September 16, 2018 - 7:55pm

UMPNC is currently in the midst of voting on whether to authorize a work stoppage, as union members and hospital executives clash over nurse-patient ratios and other labor practices.

UMPNC is currently in the midst of voting on whether to authorize a work stoppage, as union members and hospital executives clash over nurse-patient ratios and other labor practices. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

A 2015 interview with Ann Scanlon McGinity, Michigan Medicine chief nursing executive, is record of the administrator’s hostility toward unions, nurses say. Scanlon McGinity — a lead player in the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council’s ongoing contract bargaining with the hospital system — spoke in the interview of her dislike for unions and her experience of locking the nurses’ union out of the hospital when they held strike during her time as an administrator in the University of Maryland hospital system.

In the interview, Scanlon McGinity makes seemingly disparaging remarks about working with nurses’ unions.Scanlon McGinity began her position at Michigan Medicine this June, shortly before the expiration of the UMPNC contract. Now, nurses are questioning portions of the 2015 interview, which she participated in with the Women’s History Project at the Texas Medical Center. 

UMPNC is currently voting on whether to authorize a work stoppage, as union members and hospital executives clash over nurse-patient ratios and other labor practices. The union has been bargaining with Michigan Medicine administrators since January. Their previous contract expired in June, and a new agreement has not yet been reached. 

“I got that CNO job and that I did for three years but it was terrible,” Scanlon McGinity said about the University of Maryland hospital. “It was the worst job I ever had. It was a union. It was a union environment. Smart nurses’ union and I couldn’t deal with those people. It was terrible.”

Scanlon McGinity goes on to recount a labor disagreement where she “locked out” nurses at the Maryland hospital. Often when nurses go on a work stoppage, the hospital will cancel their badges and not permit them into the building, effectively preventing them from entering.  

“I’m for getting great care to people and this isn’t going to get us there and I don’t want to be part of that and the union and they had a strike,” she said. “I locked them out of the place.”

The interview has now been read by many Michigan Medicine nurses, including intensive care unit nurse Crystal Medeiros Francoeur, who said she was deeply frustrated by McGinity’s comments.

“What I read into that was she seemed very okay with locking out the nurses,” Francoeur said. “I don’t know if she was saying it was terrible to lock out the nurses or if it was terrible to work with union nurses. But the way it was written … made me feel she was anti-union and it has made a lot of nurses feel like she was brought in to bust up our union.”

Before the interview surfaced, there had been rumors circulating among the nurses about whether the hospital had hired Scanlon McGinity partially to “bust up” the union. Francoeur said the interview only solidified nurses’ suspicions, and though they can’t confirm the administration’s intentions, they don’t feel the hospital is on their side.

“I don’t know if she was brought in to union bust, or if those just happen to be her sentiments and they hired her without knowing it, but I can’t imagine that the University wouldn’t vet somebody before hiring them to that position,” Francoeur said.

Another Michigan Medicine nurse who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of employment repurcussions agreed with Francoeur.  She wasn’t shocked to read Scanlon McGinity’s interview — when she saw Scanlon McGinity speak at a panel a few months ago, she said the CNE spoke about the hospital’s bargaining offers as if they were “the best thing she’d ever seen.” Nonetheless, she said the comments were disheartening.

“How would you feel if you’re a nurse and your nursing leadership doesn’t support the style of nursing that you’re proud of?” she said.

Other comments in the interview also angered the nurses. McGinity talked at length about her strong belief in continuing education for nurses and her push to hire more nurses with bachelor’s degrees at Houston Methodist Hospital, where she worked as an executive before coming to Michigan Medicine.

“I knew (if) we needed to be the best we had to have the best.  And where was I going to get them? It wasn’t with AD grad(s). I’ve got to fix this,” she said of the Houston hospital.

Both nurses who spoke to The Daily have associate’s degrees. The anonymous nurse said she thinks the nursing community was especially hurt by the negative way Scanlon McGinity appeared to view associate’s degree nurses.

“I like to think I exemplify what it is to take care of a critically ill patient,” the nurse said. “When I hear her say things like that, it makes me think even more whatever reason she was brought in for, it wasn’t for advocacy of nurses. It was a business move.”

Scanlon McGinity could not be reached for an interview, but Michigan Medicine spokeswoman Mary Masson issued a statement to The Daily reaffirming the CNO’s commitment to the hospital’s nurses.

“Dr. Ann Scanlon McGinity is a highly-respected advocate for the critical role nurses play in the care of patients and for compassion for all,” Masson said. “She has, on many occasions, spoken to these core values over the years and since being recruited to Michigan Medicine. A number of years ago, she was asked, informally, to comment on challenges she had faced in her career. These comments do not reflect her core values and do not represent the many contributions she has made to nursing care, education and team-based health care.”

In a statement to The Daily, UMPNC Chair Katie Oppenheim echoed the nurses’ statements, saying she feels it’s unfair of the University to ask nurses to trust an administrator who has a professed distaste for unions.

“I am at a loss to understand why the University of Michigan would hire a Chief Nursing Executive who, by her own admission, can’t deal with unions. How could this be the right choice for a health system where nurses have been unionized for more than four decades?” Oppenheim said. “Unfortunately, this hire is emblematic of the negative cultural shift we see taking place. The new managers at UMHS have placed profits before patients and have begun to the dismantle the partnership that previously existed between UMPNC and the administration.”

Before Scanlon McGinity assumed CNO, the role was occupied by Margaret Calarco, who retired from the hospital system in December after 17 years in her position. Both Francoeur and her anonymous colleague said Calarco always had the nurses’ best interests at heart. Even if she didn’t always agree with the union, she was almost always willing to sit down and talk things out.

The anonymous nurse said Calarco walked around the hospital frequently, checking in on how things were doing. She hasn’t seen Scanlon McGinity doing the same yet.

“(But) frankly, I’m not sure Anne would be able to show her face on a nursing unit right now with things that she’s said,” the nurse told The Daily. “I’m not sure how that’s going to serve as good for the University, regardless of (how) these bargaining negotiations end up. You can’t undo those comments, nurses can’t unsee those comments.”

UMPNC tallied votes on the authorization of a work stoppage Sunday night. At the time of publication, an announcement about the outcome of the vote had not yet been made. But the nurses The Daily spoke to said they feel from talking to coworkers that the union will vote in favor of the authorization.

UMPNC has said their primary concern at this point in the negotiations is getting the administration to codify the current nurse-to-patient ratios in the new contract — something the administration has refused to do.

Francoeur said a yes vote doesn’t necessarily mean nurses want to strike, though.

“I’m scared about what will happen,” she said. “But I support my union. I support the nurses. If we strike, if the vote comes down to a yes vote, authorizing for a strike, then I will stand with the nurses that I work with.”

On behalf of the hospital, though, Masson reiterated the administration’s equal commitment to patient care. She said they have no intention to change the ratios at this time.

“In August, Michigan Medicine was ranked #5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report,” she wrote. “These Honor Roll rankings are achieved in part by our excellent nurse to patient ratios. Our ratios are in the top 2 percent of all hospitals in the country. We accomplished this without any contractual requirement to do so because excellent nurse staffing supports excellent patient outcomes.  We remain committed to providing this level of staffing.”

Regardless of what happens, Francoeur said the union is committed to patient safety and will offer to help the hospital come up with a plan to keep up with patient care in the event of a strike.

Her anonymous colleague agreed. She said the financial points of the contract have been negotiated and agreed upon, and now the union’s fight is purely about patient safety.  

“We stand together not just for ourselves and our own benefits, but for the benefit of our patients and the U as a whole,” the nurse said.