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UPW places ad that is critical of current hospital management

Maui Health System ‘surprised’ by union action, says its hospitals providing ‘excellent’ care

The United Public Workers union Saturday placed a full-page advertisement in The Maui News, criticizing the way Maui County hospitals are managed under the Kaiser-affiliated entity.

Maui Health System, which runs Maui Memorial Medical Center and Kula and Lanai Community hospitals, took over management of the hospitals from the quasi-public Hawaii Health Systems Corp. on July 1, 2017. The privatization of the hospitals was done by the state Legislature and Gov. David Ige to stem skyrocketing state costs and to improve patient care.

UPW represents workers who perform maintenance, food service and laundry services. Maui Health System said Monday it has 469 UPW workers.

The ad headlined “Does Kaiser Really Care About Maui?” says: “Today, Maui Memorial is losing its most qualified people. The quality of care — and safety — is being sacrificed. Caregivers say they’d recommend their loved ones go elsewhere for care.”

The ad said millions of dollars in annual subsidies are received by the hospital from the state, including $22.5 million this fiscal year. (As part of its operational transfer agreement, Maui Health System receives partial operating subsidies from the state to ease the hospitals’ transition from being government-managed to privately managed. The subsidies have decreased over the years.)

“But rather than invest in people or enhance or add services, Kaiser spends on aesthetics and moneymaking departments,” the ad said.

“It takes experienced doctors, nurses, technicians, cafeteria and custodial workers, and a breadth of services to deliver quality health care. As Maui’s only acute care hospital, Kaiser owes the people of Maui County nothing less.”

Michael Rembis, chief executive officer of Maui Health System, said Monday that Maui Health System was “surprised to see that UPW paid for a full-page ad in The Maui News as we are negotiating in good faith and have been good partners.”

“It is to the benefit of everyone involved that we conclude discussions as soon as possible and that is what we are committed to do,” he said. “Most importantly, we are proud of the excellent and compassionate care that our Maui Health System caregivers provide to our patients. Quality of care for the Maui and Lanai communities is essential for Maui Health System.”

Rembis said Maui Health System is not a traditional Kaiser hospital. Contract negotiations for workers at the Maui County community hospitals are between UPW and Maui Health System.

Attempts to reach UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua were not successful Monday.

Last August, the other union representing hospital workers, the Hawaii Government Employees Association with 775 workers, ratified a contract with Maui Health System with 92 percent approving, said union spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter last month. HGEA represented nurses at the three hospitals.

The contract was negotiated by HGEA and the United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals. Since then, UNAC/UHCP has taken over representation of the Maui Region workers formerly represented by HGEA, Sluyter said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.