Tenet Prioritizes Profit Over Worker Safety as St. Vincent Nurses Strike Reaches Day 115
Washington (June 30, 2021) - United States Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02) and Lori Trahan (MA-03), sent a letter to Tenet Health (Tenet) Chief Executive Officer Ronald A. Rittenmeyer questioning the company's use of taxpayer funds, including federal CARES Act grants and loans, to enrich its executives and shareholders rather than meet the needs of its health care workers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced in part by an ongoing nurses' strike in Massachusetts and other Tenet facilities across the nation.
In the early months of the public health and economic crisis, Tenet furloughed staff and postponed the delivery of employee benefits, while seeking over $2 billion in loans and grants from the federal government, an effort that was aimed at "maximizing [Tenet's] cash position." Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenet had an extraordinarily profitable year in 2020, reporting annual earnings of over $3.1 billion and $2.9 billion in available credit. To date, Tenet has received over $936 million in grants from the Provider Relief Fund and over $1.5 billion more in relief from Medicare Advance Payments and payroll tax match deferrals.
The pandemic exerted an extraordinary physical, mental, emotional, and economic toll on patients and health care workers, but Tenet's top executives and major shareholders reaped massive profits during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In FY 2020, Tenet posted an annual profit of more than $3.1 billion, even after completing a $1.1 billion acquisition of 45 ambulatory surgery centers-leading to a five-fold increase in Tenet's share price from March 20, 2020 to June 16, 2021. Chief Executive Officer Ronald A. Rittenmeyer  received almost $17 million in total compensation and Executive Vice President and CFO Daniel J. Cancelmi's compensation totaled over $7 million.
"The apparent greed of Tenet Healthcare during an unprecedented public health emergency and economic crisis is astounding, particularly in light of the billions in taxpayer assistance received by your company, and the ongoing failure to address the concerns of its frontline health care workers," the lawmakers wrote.
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
Meanwhile, Tenet workers in hospitals across the country are currently on strike seeking better pay and conditions. At St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, 800 professional nurses have been striking for nearly four months, after Tenet walked away from a two-year negotiation effort in which nurses asked Tenet "to implement desperately needed staffing increases to improve the patient care conditions at the facility." Seven weeks after having walked away from the table, Tenet made a settlement offer to the nurses this past weekend, but that offer reportedly removes financial proposals that had previously been part of the negotiations.
In order to better understand the financial and economic decisions of Tenet executives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of these decisions on workers and patients, the lawmakers request more information on how the company spent its federal relief money.
As nurses at St. Vincent Hospital reach day 115 of their strike, the lawmakers continue to urge Tenet to return to the table with meaningful proposals and conclude negotiations so that St. Vincent nurses can go back to work caring for the community.