Health Law

Judge lifts order barring 7 health care workers from jumping to new hospital

  • Print

gavel and stethoscope

Image from Shutterstock.

A Wisconsin judge on Monday lifted his prior order that temporarily barred seven health care workers from leaving their hospital in Neenah, Wisconsin, for new jobs in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Judge Mark McGinnis of the Outagamie County Circuit Court ruled against ThedaCare Regional Medical Center in Neenah after a hearing, report the New York Times, the Appleton Post-Crescent, Fox 11 News and WBAY.

ThedaCare Regional Medical Center had argued that losing the employees would destroy its ability to provide critical care to trauma and stroke victims in Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley, which includes Neenah and Appleton.

The New York Times said the dispute is “rooted in twin crises roiling the health care industry: a shortage of workers, many of whom are demanding higher wages, and a raging coronavirus pandemic.”

The seven employees were members of an 11-person interventional radiology and cardiovascular team, who were offered better pay and fewer on-call hours at Ascension Northeast Wisconsin’s St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton. They were all at-will employees with ThedaCare, which declined to match Ascension Northeast Wisconsin’s offer, the employees said.

Losing the employees would cause ThedaCare to lose certification as a Level II trauma center, which requires the ability to provide around-the-clock interventional radiology procedures, the hospital said. Such procedures include restoring blood flow to a patient’s brain after a stroke, the New York Times explains.

A hospital lawyer said St. Elizabeth Hospital had transferred 21 trauma patients and eight stroke patients last year to ThedaCare for higher-level care, the Appleton Post-Crescent reports. There were no transfers from ThedaCare to St. Elizabeth Hospital.

McGinnis had issued a temporary restraining order Friday that required Ascension to do one of two things: Either make available to ThedaCare one invasive radiology technician and one registered nurse from the departing team or cease hiring any of the employees until ThedaCare has hired adequate staff to replace them.

When McGinnis lifted the injunction Monday, he said other staffing solutions were available to ThedaCare. One option, he said, was cross-training employees who do similar jobs at ThedaCare’s Appleton hospital, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent.

McGinnis said at the hearing he had hoped that ThedaCare and Ascension would be able to work together to smooth the transition period, according to Fox 11 News.

“But I’m not able to craft any type of injunction that would require or limit Ascension without, I think, creating more issues or more friction, or taking away the ability that they have to provide healthcare services,” McGinnis said.

Fox 11 News published statements by Ascension and ThedaCare.

Ascension said it was pleased with the decision, and it welcomes its newest employees.

ThedaCare said its goal had been “to create a short-term orderly transition, not to force team members to continue working at ThedaCare.”

ThedaCare said it would continue “working night and day” to ensure ongoing access in the short term to high-level trauma and stroke care. The hospital said it has “secured coverage in these areas. We will also continue the significant, robust work that is underway to secure a long-term solution and continued community access for these critical care services, so people can get the care they need in their community when minutes count.”

ThedaCare’s lawsuit arguing that Ascension improperly recruited the employees as a group will still go forward, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.