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My syncopated heart beat and an update on Nurses United-Washington Hospital Center negotiations

January 4, 2011

In this post:  (1) My medical condition; (2) Update on nurses negotiations with Washington Hospital Center

For my open letter to Washington Hospital Center President John Sullivan, click here.

I got rhythm but it’s a bit off-beat: First let me thank the many people who sent kind messages and inquired about my condition. Here it is: After the last

Cole re-ups for Sunday men's tennis leage

tests at the Washington Hospital Center and visit to my cardiologist in December. I have chronic arrhythmia (irregular heart beat and defective electrical signaling). However, the condition is not serious enough to warrant a pace maker or to stop me from playing tennis (one of the great loves of my life) and other exercise. Two caveats, it’s essential that I warm up slowly in order to avoid stressing my heart and continued surveillance.

Update and Nurses United Union negotiations with Washington Hospital Center: At last report (Nov. 5, 2010), nurses at WHC, represented by National Nurses United (NNU), the largest nurses in union in the U.S., were protesting the WHC’s unilateral decision to impose many cutbacks in wages, pensions and other benefits starting in the New Year.

One of the most critical issues is known as “differentials.” A differential is bonus that a nurse gets for working the least desirable jobs or most stressful jobs, for example night shift, or emergency room. The NNU and WHC agreed upon differential pay several years ago as a mutually beneficial arrangement that would WHC recruit and retain nurses with extra pay.

The harsh cutbacks, if imposed, would surely hurt nurses’ morale and lead to resignations and make it far more difficult for WHC to recruit. Imagine if you were a night shift nurse with 10 years of service and suddenly were told that your yearly salary would suddenly be slashed from $60K to $54K.

The cutbacks would also hurt Washington Hospital Center’s ability to provide excellent patient care and its reputation for doing so. Having a sufficient number of qualified and motivated nurses is critical when it comes to saving lives and helping patients recover.

There is some evidence that things are slipping. This past, November, NNU filed a complaint asking the D.C. Health Department to investigate understaffing of nurses sufficient to jeopardize patient care at the Washington Hospital Center.

Update: Given WHC’s arbitrary cut-backs the nurses planned a one-day strike on November 24; however, the strike was called off when Washington Hospital Center administrators agreed to resume bargaining and to put on hold its draconian cut-back plan. The negotiations will resume after the Holidays.


Stephen Frum, WHC nurse and local union leader

Geri Lee, veteran WHC nurse reinstated in arbitration. Dismissed for getting stuck in the blizzards of 2009. See item below. Source: Washington Post

In related news, NN Washington Hospital Center has been under fire for its firing for 18 nurses who couldn’t get to work during last February’s twin blizzards. Despite the controversy, not all of the nurses have been rehired and some have found other jobs. However, NNU achieved a major victory last week when an arbitrator reversed WHC’s decision to fire a registered nurse, who was unable to get to work during the area’s crippling snow storms.

Arbitrator Roger P. Kaplan, directed Washington Hospital Center to cancel the termination of Geri Lee, 54, and awarded her back pay for all but 10 days of the nearly 11 months of since her dismissal. Said Kaplan, “The evidence demonstrated the Lee has an exemplary performance record, having received awards, commendations and testimonials from the employer as well as from patients.  The evidence further showed that she has a clean disciplinary record and has not had attendance problems.  This is a remarkable record built over 31-plus years of service.” According to union officials, the ruling will open the way for others fired during the snow storm to receive re-instatement and compensation. For more details see:

WHC’s treatment of nurses during the snow storm is further indication that the Hospital’s Administration needs to overhaul its approach to its RNs.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2011 9:15 pm


    certainly glad to hear that you “got rhythm” and that you can do all the things you love. Take good care of yourself…


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