University of Miami Hospital and 1199SEIU Caregivers Forge Innovative Partnership

Forging a new era in labor-management relations, University of Miami Hospital employees and management have worked together to negotiate and approve an innovative new union contract that invests in quality patient care and a brighter future for workers at UMH. The contract, which includes a first-ever education fund for employees, was ratified by UMH workers who are members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Among the innovative elements of the union contract are staffing increases, incentive-based wage increases, and a strong labor-management partnership to help improve patient care.

“This contract has created a new model in union-management-employee relationships,” said Monica Russo, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “The innovative approach we’ve achieved with leaders and workers at UMH is already providing tangible results by training employees and providing high quality patient care.” Russo continued, “In essence, we’ve created a blueprint for other institutions also hoping to invest in their employees and improve patient care.”

Joint projects already undertaken have resulted in reduced wait times in the emergency room, improvements in wound care, and dramatically reduced response time to patient call lights – all of which increase patient satisfaction.

“This contract is a game changer,” said Dan Snyder, Chief Executive Officer of University of Miami Hospital, the flagship hospital of the UM Miller School of Medicine and UHealth-University of Miami Health System. “It creates a structure that not only enhances the hospital services that benefit patients, it establishes a framework for the future by working with our employees.”

The UMH workers and management took a new, collaborative approach to bargaining, which involved both parties sitting side-by-side at the bargaining table, rather than across from each other, to draft contract proposals with the help of a labor-management consultant. Throughout negotiations, management and employees identified mutual interests and then looked for innovative ways to achieve shared goals.

Jack Lord, M.D., Chief Operating Officer of the Miller School of Medicine and UHealth, said, “The entire negotiation process was aimed at creating a partnership with clear goals in mind: to benefit the patient and create a partnership with employees.”

Much of the work to create a strong labor-management partnership, which laid the groundwork for successful contract negotiations, was done by the UMH Labor-Management Committee. The committee is composed of staff and management working together to improve patient care and the work environment.

Projects undertaken by the committee have already resulted in significant improvements to patient care, and as a result of the new contract, the committee will now have a full-time staffer dedicated to facilitating the shared goals of UMH workers and management.

“Improving patient care is a priority for all of us at UHealth,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, and CEO of UHealth. “The contract reflects our desire to recruit and retain outstanding health care employees as we work to make UMH the health care destination of choice in the community.”

One of the top priorities of the hospital and its staff is to appropriately reduce patient length of stay. When patients remain in the hospital beyond the expected time for their condition and severity of illness, there is an inefficient and wasteful consumption of resources and patients are at greater risk for hospital-acquired complications. As length of stay is reduced, the hospital will re-invest savings in front-line health care workers through incentive-based wage increases.

UMH is also investing significantly in a historic training and education fund – a first in Florida for 1199SEIU — for employees to move up the career ladder through tuition assistance, college preparatory courses, GED, ESL and undergraduate and graduate education.

“This is really a win-win,” said Ezequiel Maderas, emergency room technician, union delegate and bargaining team member. “We are able to improve our training, which in turn helps us provide better care for our patients.”

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