Judge Removes Order Barring Wisconsin Hospital Workers From Hiring

A judge in Wisconsin on Monday lifted an order that temporarily barred seven employees of ThedaCare, a major regional hospital system, from securing new jobs at another healthcare network until they could find replacements.

The lifting of a temporary injunction cleared the way for workers to start new jobs in Ascension Northeast Wisconsin. Last week, ThedaCare sued Ascension in an effort to temporarily prevent workers from leaving and becoming involved in an unusual labor dispute stemming from the twin crises that have plagued the healthcare industry: a shortage of workers, many of whom are demanding higher wages, and a severe coronavirus pandemic.

Ascension Northeast Wisconsin said in a statement before Monday’s hearing that ThedaCare “has an opportunity but refuses to make competitive counter-offers to protect its former employees.”

Employees who are members of ThedaCare’s interventional radiology and cardiovascular team were on-demand employees and were not contractually required to stay at ThedaCare for a specified period of time, according to ThedaCare. risePart of one of the largest Catholic healthcare systems in the United States.

ThedaCare, which operates seven hospitals He stated in his lawsuit that he aims to “protect society” by temporarily retaining employees who accepted news jobs with Ascension in December and are expected to begin Monday.

He added that employees, who together make up the majority of an 11-person team, provide “vital care for critically ill patients” and that Ascension “must know that this action will reduce ThedaCare’s ability to provide critical care for trauma and stroke.” Victims in the Fox River Valley, three counties stretching from Green Bay to Oshkosh.

Judge Mark McGinnis of the Outagamie County Circuit Court granted ThedaCare’s request for a temporary restraining order preventing employees from starting Ascension this week as scheduled, and on Friday told attorneys for both parties to reach a settlement. Appleton, Wis., Post-Crescent reported.

The lawsuit was filed as hospital systems across the country, including Wisconsin. struggle to keep workers during the pandemic.

But Joe Veenstra, an labor and employment attorney in La Crosse, Wis., said the case was ThedaCare’s unusual and far-reaching attempt to interfere with the free market and keep workers from paying higher wages.

“We’ve definitely entered an alternative universe,” said Mr. Veenstra, adding: “We have governments that can no longer control labor and don’t want the courts to prevent free markets from forming. It’s just that we live in an upside down world right now.”

It was unclear how long ThedaCare wanted to retain the seven employees. In the hospital system case, he said, he wanted Ascension to either loan a radiology technician and a nurse to ThedaCare each day until it employs enough staff, or that Ascension stops hiring employees until new staff are found.

Mr Veenstra said it was “very, very unusual” for ThedaCare to restrict their employment in this way.

In the lawsuit, ThedaCare says a hospital must be able to perform interventional radiology procedures 24 hours a day to maintain its Level II trauma center status at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, the second-highest category it can achieve. It’s impossible to sustain that if employees leave, he says.

If the hospital is unable to provide 24-hour interventional radiology care, such as restoring blood flow to the patient’s brain after a stroke, it will “risk undoing Level II trauma center verification” and will be forced to transfer patients elsewhere. , the lawsuit states.

Timothy Breister, one of the layoffs named in the lawsuit, said in a letter to Judge McGinnis that Ascension had “in no way hired seven people,” as ThedaCare claimed.

Instead, Mr. Breister said that one member of the team “received an outstanding offer not only in terms of salary but also for a better work/life balance”, inspiring others to apply.

Mr. Breister said that after receiving an offer from Ascension, seven employees went to ThedaCare management and asked them to meet Ascension’s offer. ThedaCare’s management told employees that “by matching the offers, the long-term expense on ThedaCare is not worth the short-term cost and there will be no counter-offerings.”

He added that since the services performed by the workers in ThedaCare will now be performed in Ascension, patient care will not be compromised. He and other employees could not be reached immediately on Monday.

Lynn Detterman, senior vice president of ThedaCare Southern District, said in an affidavit that if employees leave, the hospital will need to refer patients to facilities as far away as Milwaukee or Madison, both about 100 miles away.

“Unfortunately, it is predictable that some patients may die, as ThedaCare is unable to treat in a timely manner without interventional radiology and cardiovascular services,” he said.

He added that as the number of cases increases, it becomes more difficult to direct patients during the pandemic that forces hospitals.

Healthcare workers in Wisconsin, where 63 percent of eligible people are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, are dealing with an increase in cases. On Sunday, the daily average of new cases in the state was more than 21,000. New York Times database.

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