Sut­ter col­lects apol­ogy—and $6 mil­lion

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

Sut­ter Health’s long legal battle with a la­bor union has ended with an ex­pen­sive bill for the union.

Unite Here, which rep­re­sents hos­pi­tal house­keep­ers, has agreed to pay Sut­ter Health $6 mil­lion for con­duct­ing a smear cam­paign about the clean­li­ness of the Sacra­mento, Calif.-based hos­pi­tal chain’s ma­ter­nity wards and birthing cen­ters.

Unite Here also has for­mally apol­o­gized for send­ing dis­parag­ing post­cards to po­ten­tial pa­tients, which warned that the laun­dry ser­vice used by Sut­ter Health “does not en­sure that ‘clean’ linens are free of blood, fe­ces and harm­ful pathogens.” The post­card had an im­age of a new­born wrapped in a blan­ket.

The set­tle­ment con­cludes a legal case that be­gan in 2005, when Unite Here was in a la­bor dis­pute with An­gel­ica Tex­tile Ser­vices, which pro­vides linen ser­vices to Sut­ter Health and other North­ern Cal­i­for­nia hos­pi­tals. Unite Here sent the post­cards to women of child­bear­ing age liv­ing in com­mu­ni­ties near Sut­ter Health hos­pi­tals and birthing cen­ters.

Sut­ter Health sued Unite Here for mak­ing false ac­cu­sa­tions and de­fam­ing the not-for-profit health sys­tem.

In 2006, a jury sided with Sut­ter Health and or­dered Unite Here to pay nearly $17.3 mil­lion in dam­ages. Unite Here won an ap­peal be­cause of a court er­ror on jury in­struc­tions. The $6 mil­lion fine and apol­ogy were de­cided by me­di­a­tion.

“Al­though long over­due, the union’s apol­ogy fi­nally puts this in­ci­dent be­hind us,” Geral­dine Brin­ton, board chair of Sut­ter Health, said in a state­ment. “Us­ing scare tac­tics for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses is shame­ful. The post­card hurt pa­tients and de­ceived com­mu­ni­ties about the ded­i­ca­tion of our hos­pi­tals to de­liv­er­ing high-qual­ity care.” The mail­ing sent out by Unite Here tar­geted women of child­bear­ing age who lived near Sut­ter fa­cil­i­ties.

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