Letter: MNA's shortsighted agenda a threat to BHS, community

Posted
To the editor:

Upon hearing that the MNA bargaining committee issued its third notice to strike on June 18, I wondered if my fellow community members and BHS colleagues realized the potential impact this action has not only on our organization, but also on the overall status and stability of Berkshire County.

To imagine a hospital without its nurses is difficult. However, the October strike demonstrated our abilities to work together to ensure no disruption to our patients. Unfortunately, the strike left a wider divide between nurses and their non-nurse and management colleagues. We had not yet begun to recover as an organization when the second notice arrived, which was rescinded, and today we are preparing for a another labor action.

To imagine an entire county without its primary healthcare provider, and one with such commendable performance and extensive services, is regretfully a reality to be considered as this initiative erodes the financial infrastructure and collegial ties we have worked so hard to foster. Our community deserves to better understand the factors at play and ultimately what impact these labor actions can have on our health system and our community. It is important to recognize that the impact resonates well beyond our health system and deep into our community.

Healthcare is highly complex and is facing significant financial challenges. Government programs make up the vast majority of payers to our system, and the Affordable Care Act is under attack nationally. Private insurers are also seeking reductions in reimbursement. Healthcare technology is advancing, becoming increasingly expensive, but is a required and worthy investment.

Berkshire County is particularly vulnerable and we shouldn't forget that none of us is guaranteed a hospital within comfortable walking or even driving distance. We know this vulnerability to be very real because we have experienced the closure of one acute care hospital, a loss that left the residents of Northern Berkshire in shock. A question that every resident or visitor to the Berkshires needs to consider is what would the Berkshires look like without Berkshire Medical Center?

It doesn't matter if BMC is where you opt to receive care or not. If you live, work, or even vacation in the Berkshires, this question is paramount. If you remove or deplete our health system, you would effectively dismantle the retirement communities and nursing facilities that care for the elderly. You would not attract second home owners, you would lose the ones we have and tourism would take a hit. You would disengage and immediately lose the thousands of BMC professionals who support the tax bases of our local communities. Other industries and large employers would struggle attracting and retaining employees, and would not likely consider the Berkshires a viable option for new business endeavors or investments.

This is not just a question of picking sides: BMC or nurses. You can love, appreciate, and support nurses while respectfully disagreeing with this shortsighted and unrealistic union agenda and ballot initiative. I value and respect my nursing colleagues and their sacred work. However, I am equally concerned that the MNA's agenda is not in the best interest of our patients, our health system or Berkshire County, and is likely not in the best interest of my nursing colleagues when it really comes down to it.

Christa M. Gariepy,

Pittsfield

The writer is director of patient relations at BMC.



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