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By Richard Asinof
(Updated, 4 p.m.)
WOONSOCKET – A tentative five-year collective bargaining agreement has been reached between United Nurses & Allied Professionals, Local 5067, the union that represents nearly 600 employees at Landmark Medical Center and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island, and a potential new bidder for Landmark, according to union general counsel Christopher Callaci.
The potential new bidder, Landmark Hospital Holdco, is owned by the principals of Bayonne Medical Center, Hoboken University Medical Center and Christ Hospital, three acute care hospitals in New Jersey, and CarePoint Health Plans, a Medicare Advantage Plan in New Jersey.
Union members are scheduled to vote on the collective bargaining on March 13.
Landmark Hospital Holdco had previously submitted a bid to buy Landmark in November 2012, but the bid was not considered by Jonathan N. Savage, the court-appointed special master for Landmark.
State regulators are currently reviewing the application by Prime Healthcare Services of Ontario, Calif., to purchase Landmark Medical Center; regulators have deemed the application incomplete and have requested more information.
“We wanted to be prepared as best we can for any eventuality,” Callaci said, explaining the rationale for the negotiations with Landmark Hospital Holdco over a collective bargaining agreement.
“We got the utmost respect for the special master and the state regulatory process now ongoing with Prime Healthcare Services,” Callaci continued. “But the process [over the last few years] has been unpredictable,” he said, citing the manner in which Steward Health Care of Boston dropped out as a buyer in September of 2012 after being approved by regulators. “We wanted, as a union, to make sure that if for some reason, Prime doesn’t close this deal, we were not sitting on our hands.”
Callaci praised the commitments in the collective bargaining pact made by Landmark Hospital Holdco as being far superior to those made by Prime Healthcare.
“Unlike Prime, Holdco has agreed, in writing, to a one-year moratorium on layoffs, to preserve clinical lines of service for at least two years, and has agreed not to sell the hospital for a period of at least three years,” said Callaci. “No other entity that has expressed an interest in acquiring Landmark has made that kind of commitment to protect the public interest,” said Callaci.
“We have every confidence that Prime Healthcare Services’ acquisition of Landmark Medical Center will continue to move forward in a productive manner and conclude successfully,” said Jonathan N. Savage, Landmark’s court-appointed special master, in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
“Chris Callaci and UNAP have always maintained that it is their obligation, despite the work involved in doing so, to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with every interested party. Nothing more should be read into their effort to do so. UNAP’s regular practice of entering into backup collective bargaining agreements will have no effect on this process or on the court-approved and mandated agreement with Prime Healthcare,” continued Savage.
“Prime has been extraordinary in their efforts to support the ongoing operations of the hospital during this regulatory phase and has been open and transparent with the regulators,” he added. “We are days away from submitting the additional information that the R.I. Attorney General’s office and the R.I. Department of Health have requested, allowing them to make an informed decision. At this juncture, it is important to note that without Prime’s significant capital investment in Landmark, our ability to operate would have been jeopardized.
“Months of hard work have been invested in this process and thousands of pages of documentation have been transferred to our regulators,” Savage said. “Prime’s commitment to the northern Rhode Island community will preserve Landmark for the foreseeable future. We will continue to work with all stakeholders, including UNAP, to accomplish this goal.”
Spencer Baretz, spokesman for Landmark Hospital Holdco, could not be reached for comment.
(Updated with a statement from Jonathan N. Savage)