Detroit/ Community & Society
AI Assisted Icon
Published on April 10, 2024
Detroit ER Workers at Ascension St. John Set for 24-Hour Strike Amid Contract Deadlock with TeamHealthSource: Google Street View

Tensions are rising at Ascension St. John in Detroit where ER workers, backed by the Greater Detroit Association of Emergency Physicians, are set to strike for 24 hours on April 18. The union, representing contracted doctors and physician assistants, has been locked in a stalemate with TeamHealth after seven months of negotiations on their first-ever contract. According to The Detroit News, they're demanding better staffing levels, improved work conditions, and fair pay.

Despite the healthcare provider's notice to strike in an attempt to drastically improve urgent care conditions, patients in need of emergency attention on the strike day have been advised by TeamHealth to still seek assistance at the hospital's ER. To continue delivering care, TeamHealth promised, as per their spokesperson Josh Hopson in a statement to The Detroit News, to keep the department "fully staffed and day-to-day operations will not be interrupted."

Dire staff shortages have led to what some say is a degraded working environment and compromised patient safety. In FOX 2 Detroit statements, union members revealed instances where ER patients had to wait up to 17 hours for care and detailed cases of staff assaults amid high tensions.

Citing safety concerns and staff treatment, the union and its members believe they've been pushed to the brink, with no other choice but to strike. "This is not how we thought this was going to go; we wanted to avoid this at all costs but we’re left with no other choice," Casey Kolp, a physician assistant, told clickondetroit. In contrast, TeamHealth has called into question the union's assertions, claiming current wait times are far less and asserting the emergency department is indeed fully staffed.

While the strike looms, Michigan's congressional delegation, including U.S. Senator Gary Peters, has shown support for the union. Peters has been probing the involvement of private equity firms like Blackstone in hospital operations, expressing concerns about staffing and patient care. "Nobody went to medical school to be on the picket line," Dr. Michelle Wiener, an ER doctor and the union's president, said reflecting on the extraordinary circumstances leading to the strike action, in a report by FOX 2 Detroit.