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Karen Matts LPN

Karen Matts is a licensed practical nurse and a proud member of Teamsters Local 332.

April 3rd, 2010 8:18 PM

A Catholic Hospital's Fall From Grace

My name is Karen Matts. I am a licensed practical nurse and a proud member of Teamsters Local 332. I loved my job providing care to patients at Genesys Regional Medical Center near Flint, Michigan.

I was laid off last year - well, I actually chose to leave. I could have bumped a co-worker out of her job, but it felt like stealing and I couldn't do it. So I left instead. I no longer work at Genesys, but I'm standing alongside the remaining licensed nurses, techs, EMTs and paramedics who are fighting to save their jobs and preserve the quality of care that the patients in my community deserve. You can help by visiting their website at and taking a stand.

My 300 sisters and brothers are being abused by a corporate medical establishment that claims to follow Catholic principles. But behind the scenes it wants to bleed the resources of that hospital and extract them to fund the large salaries and pet projects of out-of-state executives. You see, Genesys is owned by Ascension Health, the largest Catholic hospital chain in America and a very profitable one at that.

Ascension claims to be a "constructive voice in ensuring all Americans have access to quality healthcare." But it is trying to eliminate health care for its workers who retire after a lifetime of providing care to patients in our community.

Ascension also says it is "committed to health and well-being for our communities." But it cut 44 licensed nurses who provided direct patient care at Genesys, and wants to demote 40 more. Patient care has already suffered, and these cuts will make it worse.

Ascension is the country's third largest - and the largest Catholic non-profit -  hospital chain. Last year it had revenues of $14 billion and declared a "surplus" of $371 million since it isn't allowed to call it a profit.

I wrote a letter to the Bishop of Lansing and the Archbishop of Detroit that they never answered. After explaining the cuts Ascension wants to make, I wrote:

"This is all being done in the worse economic times since the Great Depression of the 1930s, in one of the hardest-hit communities where many employees find themselves suddenly being the sole support of their families. How can a so-called Catholic organization demoralize so many good, faithful people?....Just because Corporate America has become unethical and amoral, why does Ascension have to follow suit? Many of us have devoted our entire adult lives to an organization that has now lost its humanity."

My former colleagues' contract has expired and Ascension is trying to wipe them out. They know it may be only a matter of days before they are locked out or forced on strike to save Flint's health care. Ascension is already parading replacement workers through the hospital to scare the workers.

On, you can take action to send a letter to Ascension's executives. I hope you'll take a moment to send them a message and let them know what you think.

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