Nurses' union sues Sutter's CPMC


By Steven T. Jones and Joe Sciarrillo

The California Nurses Association (CNA) today filed a federal lawsuit to compel the California Pacific Medical Center to comply with two previous binding arbitration rulings and restore healthcare benefits that the unions says the Sutter Health-affiliated facility illegally cut.

The arbitration helped resolve last year's CNA strikes at CPMC facilities, and they came against the backdrop of other controversies involving CPMC in San Francisco, including efforts to scale back primary care services at St. Luke’s Hospital, which serves poor Mission residents, while trying to open a high-end hospital on Cathedral Hill.

Sutter and CPMC have long tried to break its outspoken nurses union, which has pushed progressive reforms such as single-payer health care and high nurse-to-patient ratios. A March 2008 CPMC press release (PDF) criticizing the CNA strikes quoted a nurse claiming that employee conditions were fine. "During the time I've been working here the conditions have been great," said Rosangel Klein, R.N., an oncology nurse at the Pacific campus.

But Nato Green, the labor representative for the CNA nurses at CPMC and St. Luke’s hospital, believes that CPMC is acting like an elite employer out of step with San Francisco values. He claims that it is “the worst non-profit hospital when it comes to charity care,” and he also fault its for union busting and rejection of recent arbitrations.

Despite CPMC’s refusal to uphold healthcare contracts and reimburse nurses’ medical payments, the Guardian has reported that its parent organization enjoyed a net income in 2006 of more than $500 million and employed sketchy tactics to pocket millions while maintaining its non-profit tax status.


Methinks Kevin McCormack and Mitch Katz were cut from the same bolt of maggot infested cloth.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN. on Mar. 23, 2009 @ 5:31 pm

My wife, Sherri, a former non-union CPMC registered nurse, was refused treatment by a partner of outgoing CEO Dr. Martin Brotman. The physician, Dr. May Yau, stated that it was the policy of the practice (Pacific Internal Medicine Associates) that all new patients must sign binding medical malpractice arbitration agreements. See more at:

Kevin McCormack stated in an e-mail to me dated April 9, 2009, that: "I would also like to point out that while Dr. Brotman may share an office with Dr. Yau he is in no other way affiliated with her. They have entirely separate practices."

On Saturday, April 18, 2009, I received a refund check from Dr. Yau's office. The check clearly listed BOTH Dr. Brotman and Dr. Yau as partners in Pacific Internal Medicine Associates. Don't believe me? Just e-mail me and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

Verily, verily I say to you: Be very careful of what comes out of the mouths of management at CPMC and Sutter Health. As Sherri and I were disappointed to learn, there are those who seem unable to be honest with themselves or others. Worse, they seem not to care and apparently view even reasonably-intelligent folks as slack-jawed rubes.

Dr. Brotman may be in his last days as CEO of the hospital, but he has already taken a position as regional president for Sutter Health. He'll actually be the new CPMC CEO's boss. This Sutter did because its management thinks Brotman will help get the new hospital built.

Posted by Lee White on Apr. 20, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

CPMC spokesman Kevin McCormack either is willfully dishonest or can’t be bothered to familiarize himself with the salient details of the conduct of the corporation he speaks for. It’s hard to squeeze facts into a busy schedule of counting the $140 million in annual profits CPMC has made at the expense of taxpayers, the public health system, and CPMC employees.

Mr. McCormack is mistaken that CPMC has met the terms of the arbitration.

In his ruling of March 14, 2008, Arbitrator John Kagel ruled that:

“The increases for 2007 in co-pays… are rescinded effective January 1, 2007.”

Affirming his decision on September 30, 2008, Mr. Kagel clarified the terms of the arbitration decision:

“The Employer shall forthwith reinstate insurance coverage of those benefits improperly removed by it.”

As the benefits in place today are precisely those ordered rescinded some two years ago, CPMC can not possibly claim to have complied with the arbitrator’s decision, and thousands of nurses and their families continue to shoulder the burden of their illegal health benefits.

Moreover, CPMC is not actually “committed to rebuild St. Luke’s,” as Mr. McCormack alleges. In fact, the CPMC Board of Directors voted on September 25, 2008 that authorization of the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendation to rebuild St Luke’s is “subject to the successful, timely, and cost effective entitlement and final permitting of CPMC’s City-wide Institutional Master Plan.”

The centerpiece of the aforementioned Master Plan is a 555-bed mega-deluxe hospital at Cathedral Hill. The CPMC Board policy therefore means that CPMC is only actually committed to rebuild St Luke’s in exchange for approval of Cathedral Hill. CPMC is thus holding St. Luke’s and healthcare for southeastern San Francisco hostage to their wholly unrelated aspirations to build a new boutique hospital.

Posted by Nato Green on Mar. 23, 2009 @ 10:51 am

Update: CPMC spokesperson Kevin McCormack takes issue with this post and said the CNA suit is nothing but a "publicity stunt for them. We think we have met the terms of the arbitration."
He says the company was simply required to consult with the union before it could make unilateral increases to the nurses' healthcare costs and to create a system for reimbursing costs incurred before the company had done so.
He said the issues of CPMC's plans for St. Luke's and Cathedral Hill are irrelevant and that "we are committed to rebuild St. Luke's" and to operate as a primary care facility that will serve Mission residents.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Mar. 17, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

I have been an RN at CPMC for over 15 years, and am also on the bargaining team with the California Nurses Association. Kevin McCormack should read the arbitrators decision before he takes issue with it. I was present during the arbitration hearings as a witness. I can tell you with certainty CPMC has not followed the arbitrators ruling, even though CPMC has had to hear that ruling reiterated by the arbitrator himself in a second hearing.
Does Mr McCormack care at all about his reputation?

Posted by Jonica Brooks on Mar. 20, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

CPMC has a way of twisting so many things. Perhaps they found one, maybe even a few nurses who say it is a good place to work, but in any large organization you can find that! CPMC has continually not listened to what it's nurses want. The only reason CPMC nurses have what they have at "ALL" four campuses is because of the union. The two non union campuses don't understand or want to admit that, but that is a fact. And I work at one of the non union campuses. The newest thing CPMC is doing is not giving any of it's nurses raises or contributing to their 401K plan for 2009. But they still have the money to build their mega deluxe hospital while the employees try to make ends meet in this expensive metropolis. CPMC spends a lot of money on PR and people like Kevin McCormack to SPIN things, but learn the facts and you will find out what the true story really is.

Posted by Cody on Apr. 14, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

A federal judge has ruled that CPMC must restore these benefits. I guess this turned out to be a pretty good publicity stunt, huh Kevin?

Posted by Lee White on Aug. 07, 2009 @ 8:05 am