In 2010, about a year before Larry Kaiser took over as chief executive of Temple University Health System, nurses at its flagship hospital were on strike for nearly a month.
Kaiser ushered in an era of labor peace for registered nurses and others — now numbering 2,300 at Temple University Hospital — represented by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals (PASNAP).
The announcement this week that Kaiser will step down as chief executive on Sept. 30, to be replaced on an acting basis by Stuart McLean, an Alvarez & Marsal restructuring specialist hired by the university, has made nurses wary, given that their contract expires on Kaiser’s last day.
The appointment of an outside consultant to run Temple’s patient care operations is troubling, said union president Maureen May, a Temple registered nurse who was a leader of the 2010 strike. "Ensuring that our patients get the care they need is our highest priority in our negotiations with Temple management,” she said.
Negotiations on the Temple University Hospital contract started a bit more than a month ago. Key issues for the union include staffing levels and measures to ensure that employees and the community would have input into any changes in service offerings by Temple.
Temple University, which in June 2018 announced a restructuring of the health system with the goal of ensuring the health system’s financial ability to serve the poor in North Philadelphia, said: “We are pleased that we have had amicable relations with our unions, and expect to continue that pattern.”
“No matter what happens, Temple continues to have a legal obligation to bargain in good faith with PASNAP,” union executive director Lisa Leshinski said. "That said, the recent changes raise real questions about what the ultimate intentions of Temple’s management are.”
Kaiser’s predecessor as CEO at Temple’s health system, Edmond F. Notebaert, presided not only over the costly strike, but also over 500 job cuts — about 8 percent of its workforce — and the closing of Northeastern Hospital, now an outpatient site.
In all, Temple’s health operations employ 9,800, officials said in March. PASNAP also has members at Temple’s Jeanes Hospital, where the labor contact will expire next fall.