Over 50 construction workers and community supporters rallied this morning at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital to protest the hospital’s continued refusal to engage with the community on the question of requiring contractors to provide health insurance to workers who will build WDH’s $54 million expansion.
In Oct. 2009, a small group of Building Trades leaders became aware that plans for expansion of the Wentworth Douglass Hospital were once again underway. Because of the historical precedence of NH hospitals using contractors who do not provide health insurance, they recognized a need to intervene on behalf of NH workers. The campaign began with outreach from several locals and community groups to CEO, Gregory Walker, the Board of Directors, hospital Trustees and the local politicians. Their letters went unanswered. The local unions then co-authored a letter to Mr. Walker requesting a meeting to discuss the project and how the local unions may be able to help assure a successful project. Again, the letter went unanswered. To date, they have had a presence at WDH every weekday during the morning commute. For months, the hospital has chosen to ignore them.
NH Representative, John DeJoie was able to secure a meeting with WDH’s construction manager, David Soares and Building Trades leaders. The meeting with Soares took place and the trades presented a plan already utilized by another hospital as a possible solution and provided him with the names of some contractors that were interested in bidding the work. Mr. Soares was asked to bring the idea to the Board and come back to them with an answer in two weeks time. That was five weeks ago and they have not received an answer.
“We have tried to communicate with the hospital about the need for health insurance numerous times with no avail. How dare they ignore our community”, said Paul Rouillard a twenty year Dover resident.
Despite the urgings of state Certificate of Need Board members on April 15, the hospital refused to commit to require construction companies to provide health insurance to the workers who will build the new addition. The cost of health insurance is included in the budget the CON Board requires hospitals to submit.
“By refusing to consider the issue of health care when evaluating contractors, Wentworth-Douglass is telling contractors who offer health care benefits they need not apply,” said John Jackson, Business Manager for New Hampshire Carpenters Local 118. “When contractors do not provide access to health care, they gain a bidding advantage. But the rest of us end up carrying the cost when those workers get sick or are injured.”