Union chief's letter on Jackson's travails

In the continuing debate about what to be done about the Jackson Health System, Martha Baker, president of Local 1991 of the Service Employees International Union, issued a letter Friday.

It was addressed to Mayor Carlos Alvarez and responded to an earlier letter to the mayor, sent last week, by 41 business and civic leaders urging Jackson to reduce its labor costs.

Here is the full text:

"When our 5,000 Jackson doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals read your open letter we were both pleased and shocked at the same time. It was reassuring to know that members of our community fully appreciate the vital role Jackson/PHT plays in Miami-Dade County. Thank you for caring.

"What was most disturbing was your misguided and misleading attempt to lay blame for Jackson's tough times on the very people who make it great -- its doctors nurses, and other professional caregivers. Each day we perform miracles. We take patients that others reject. We perform cutting edge procedures found only on our campuses. Using false information and sloppy analysis you chose to insult all of us.

"As Miami's elite you should have guarded against being elitist. But instead you did us a great disservice. How could such a group not do its homework? Why would you ignore the facts?

"• The doctors, nurses and other caregivers just voluntarily agreed to pay cuts worth over $100 million through 2011.

"• Using $500,000 of our own salary donations, we just hired leading hospital economists to study efficiencies.

"• We are leading an effort to bring over $100 million or more Medicaid dollars to JHS.

"Our PHT President, Dr. Roldan, on the same day you issued your attack ad, congratulated our union members for their sacrifices and wrote, ‘I commend and thank our union representatives and membership for coming to the table to work with us in addressing our financial situation. . . I understand these are large sacrifices.'

"What is most telling is that you wrongly accuse your doctors and nurses without the facts. You did not even try to get the record straight. You never met with us. You did not invite us to a single one of your private meetings. We deserved that common courtesy.

"We are not as rich as many of you; nor are we as well known. But let me share the sacrifices we make each day. We are exposed to contagious diseases and threatening bodily fluids. We work a tireless day to heal mangled bodies and ease the wretched pain of terminal disease. We are relentless in searching for an unknown cure where others have given up.

"What did you do on the day the letter was published? Most of you signed on without any dialogue. That is not leadership. You did not verify your so-called facts. That is hubris. Did you bother to ask your colleagues if Carnival Cruise Lines uses the Jackson Health Plan for its employees?

"Were the Childrens Trust employee costs and budget analyzed? You ignored that your leaders state pension was calculated on the value of the many County benefits you now attack.

"After you placed the newspaper ad, it was clear that your effort was political and not civic. We were disappointed given your reputations and past records. We respectfully suggest a different path. It is the one we would have expected. We recommend the following:

"• A meeting be set for all of us to come together at United Way.

"• All your companies offer Jackson Health Plan as an option in 30 days.

"• We analyze all costs and business operations using accurate numbers.

"• You utilize your great wealth and contacts to raise $50 million for JHS by July.

"Be part of the Jackson family, don't undermine our miracle."