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Health care unions question RWJBarnabas, Rutgers affiliation

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Public sector unions, including Health Professionals and Allied Employees Local 5094 and SPAE Nurses Local 5089, are seeking details of Rutgers University’s plans under a new affiliation with RWJBarnabas Health.

The unions are concerned the affiliation could lead to layoffs at University Hospital in Newark, with which Rutgers is affiliated. The unions are also concerned that University Hospital sent a Certificate of Need application to the state’s Department of Health requesting it end in-patient pediatric care at the hospital and move those patients to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, which is part of RWJBarnabas.

University Hospital is owned by the state but has an affiliation with Rutgers. Rutgers Cancer Institute also maintains a facility at the hospital.

Announced in 2017, the affiliation between RWJ and Rutgers seeks to align RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Health Group, a faculty practice of approximately 1,000 Rutgers-employed physicians, dentists, psychologists, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals. The alliance will result in a multi-specialty group comprised of more than 2,500 practitioners – one of the largest medical groups in the country. It is also meant to combine patient care with current research and medical education. 

Negotiations between Rutgers/RWJ and the unions are ongoing.

“When a public institution such as Rutgers enters into an affiliation agreement with a private company there must be oversight and transparency, yet either entity is required to disclose this information with patients, workers and the community,” said Tom Murphy, co-president of HPAE Local 5094, in a statement.

Dr. Roger Johansen, president of the AAUP-BHSNJ medical school faculty union, said workers want Rutgers management to listen to the concerns of the community and its workers.

“The prospect of members losing their jobs due to an affiliation agreement with no transparency is frightening to our members, especially those with twenty plus years of public service,” said Johansen in a statement. “Rutgers is embarking on an extensive partnership with RWJ Barnabas without any concern for existing contracts with its unions. Rutgers should do the right thing and put their guarantees of job protections in writing.”

David Hughes, vice president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union, added: “Rutgers AAUP-AFT stands with the doctors, medical staff and patients of University Hospital. This hospital must continue to serve the people of Newark as a public facility. We will not allow the Barchi-Strom junta to sell it to the highest bidder.”

Officials at Rutgers declined comment; RWJ officials weren’t immediately available.

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio

Vince Calio covers health care and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

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