Union members picket in front of Windham Hospital.

As the presidents of the healthcare unions representing Windham Community Memorial Hospital (WCMH)’s nurses and allied health professionals we are obligated to ring the “bed alarm” when patient care is jeopardized.  We have been doing that since negotiations with the hospital’s management and lawyers with Hartford HealthCare (HHC), the company that owns the acute-care facility, began to bog down this summer.

Our local nurses union, the Windham Federation of Professional Nurses, has since moved to authorize an unfair labor practice strike at WCMH. We know that this announcement may seem scary, but we have not come to this decision lightly. 

Heather Howlett (left) and Andrea Riley, RN

Since December of 2021, the caregivers at WCMH have been laser-focused on working together with hospital management to resolve our region’s patient care crisis. Rather than recognizing its workforce by agreeing to common-sense solutions, the chain’s lawyers have refused fair wage increases and pushed higher employee insurance costs. 

Since HHC took over WCMH, there has been a dramatic shift from quality patient care to positive operating margins. HHC’s “partnership” and acquisition has led to the loss of vital services such as our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and our Labor and Delivery Unit. 

After nearly two years of deliberation, the state’s Office of Health Strategy has proposed a final decision denying Hartford Healthcare’s application to terminate maternity services at WCMH, a decision which HHC has contested. HHC is currently named in a class-action lawsuit for overcharging patients in its tier system, and has also been taken to court by Trinity Health of New England for monopolizing healthcare services

While our nurses prepare to take this serious step, leaders and activists with the hospital’s service and maintenance union, WCMH United Employees, are hard at work assessing their next steps. Their membership stands strong in support of the nurses’ decision to take this dramatic action. 

We are not alone in an industry where health chain CEOs and their attorneys are increasingly turning a blind eye to the calls of caregivers to put patients before profits. Nurses and health professionals are taking collective action – and in many cases, that includes strikes – to accomplish this critical goal on behalf of the communities we serve.

We are now calling on patients, their families  and all who share our concerns to join us. Help us hold this heartless healthcare chain’s executives and lawyers accountable by signing and sharing our petition today.

Andrea Riley, RN is President of the Windham Federation of Professional Nurses, AFT Local 5041. Heather Howlett, CA, is President of the WCMH United Employees, AFT Local 5099.

Together the authors represent approximately 400 registered nurses and allied health professionals at the Hartford HealthCare (HHC)-owned Windham Community Memorial Hospital (WCMH) in Windham and its partner medical facilities.