Rochester General Hospital president steps down

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Rochester General Hospital President Kevin Casey M.D. is stepping down from the hospital presidency today. A gastroenterologist whose quarter-century career has been spent entirely at RGH, Casey plans to continue his practice at RGH. 

Rochester Regional Health plans to conduct a nationwide search to fill the RGH presidency, RRH spokesperson Cristina Domingues said. 

Kevin Casey

Casey has served as RGH president since February 2018. He leaves the post after a tumultuous two years in which the coronavirus pandemic stressed hospitals’ staffs and management nationally to their limits. His departure from the post comes days after activist nurses announced that they had filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to begin a drive to unionize RRH’s nursing and other non-physician clinical staff. 

In a statement on its website, the new  unionizing effort, the Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals, cited what the union’s organizers see as poor working conditions and the RRH administration’s failure to adequately address them as cause for the union drive. 

“It has been made clear that decisions are not being made in our best interests, and it’s time for that to change,” the RUNAP statement reads. “Our mission is to provide care in a way that is safe to patients and nurses both. We cannot continue to meet the bare minimum of patient care because of lack of resources and staff.” 

The union drive and Casey’s resignation as RGH president come three months into the tenure of a new RRH CEO, Richard Davis. 

Davis, who goes by Chip, comes to RRH from Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where he served as CEO of the system’s South Market and Henry Ford Hospital. He replaces Eric Bieber M.D., who retired in December after six years at RRH’s helm. 

In a message to RRH staff last week, Davis greeted the union drive cautiously but clearly stated that RRH would not welcome the union with open arms. 

“While we respect our nurses’ right to choose whether to be represented by a union, we firmly believe our ability to continue providing high-quality care and a positive and just work environment is best achieved by maintaining our existing direct working relationship with our employees, rather than working through a third-party labor union,” the CEO’s statement says. 

As the Rochester Beacon previously reported, the coronavirus pandemic has put severe strains on area hospitals including RGH, with nursing staff taking much of the brunt. 

Facing burnout, legions of nurses have left the profession or quit their regular hospital jobs to work for nurse staffing agencies. Known as travel nurses, agency nursing temps make up to three times as much as regular staff, sometimes working for the very hospital they quit. 

In a March interview, RRH chief medical officer Robert Mayo M.D. acknowledged that a severe shortage of nursing staff was putting strains on hospital operations. The system’s nursing staff’s numbers were down approximately 25 percent, Mayo said at the time.

“We anticipate that it will take some time to refill those positions,” Mayo predicted. In the meantime, he added, paying “a huge premium” to hire travel nurses to fill the gap was placing financial pressures on RRH. 

Such problems are by no means confined to RRH. In an earlier interview, University of Rochester Medical Center Chief Nursing Executive Karen Keady, citing similar nursing shortfalls in the UR Medicine system and a similar travel-nurse bind, told the Rochester Beacon that shoring up plummeting nursing staff ranks with travel nurses “causes issues financially (that) over time, (are) not sustainable.”

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

4 thoughts on “Rochester General Hospital president steps down

  1. Another pertinent article as our health care system collapses all around us. Kudos to the nurses who have the smarts to seek representation so they can safely do their jobs and protect themselves and their profession. With the vast majority of physicians now employed it amazes me that they do not have the common sense or cortical activity to also seek union representation. As an employed physician, nurse or health care worker you are an employee at the will of your employer and at the mercy of factors outside of your control. Perhaps the time is right for an all inclusive health care workers union. After all there is strength in numbers.
    Who represents physicians? The American Medical Association has approximately 15% of all physicians as members. The state medical societies are vestigial appendages of the AMA. How has that worked out for all us practicing physicians? Keep working harder for less. Burn yourselves out so you will be of no use to anyone. Sometimes I feel like the Playtex bra commercial with no visible means of support. Forget about respect. That ship sailed long ago.
    As I listen and talk to my patients they are not happy with the current health care system. Overcrowded emergency rooms, long waits for specialist visits, and ever increasing costs are the new norm. After 30 years of practice in family medicine I believe we are worse off now than when I began. I am dismayed, disillusioned and disenchanted about the current state of my profession and the medical insurance complex. Stay healthy because you can not afford to get sick. And by the way, Excellus sent out their notice of proposed premium increase of 15% for 2023 for my coverage. Solidarity to the nurses as they move forward with unionization.

    • As usual the devastating effects of the vaccine mandates is never mentioned as a large contributing cause of the staffing shortage, morale loss and increasing discord with large hospital systems. We lost 45% of our ambulance crew. Healthcare workers lives were torn apart and they were fired as a thank you for their endless hours of sacrifice during the height of the pandemic. Now many can no longer work in their professions in New York state as our governor took away exemptions and unemployment for these healthcare workers. Many were forced to leave healthcare altogether or leave the state. We are watching the collapse of our healthcare systems. Patients increasingly are distrusting of traditional medical care as well. All for a vaccine which neither protects you from contracting the disease nor stops you from spreading it and comes with some risk of harm. Where there is risk there must be choice. There are now over 1000 peer reviewed papers on vaccine injury.

  2. The Employers always say the same thing, and it is always a version of what Will Astor reports here. In sum, the CEO claims the ability to provide a positive and just working environment is best achieved by maintaining our existing direct working relationship with employees, as opposed to a third party Labor union. Of course this is a lie. If their “direct” relationship with individual employees was considered even close to adequate and fair, resulting in tolerable working conditions, the hospital would not be short staffed from resignations, nor would employees see the need for a union.There is NO third party. The employees are the union. Whether they decide to affiliate with an existing union, or not, is their choice under the law. Amazon in Staten Island unionized as an independent union solely of employees. Other unions provided free legal counsel for the always occurring violations of Labor Law. At Amazon, as with most, the labor law violations were sustained as violating workers rights under the law. Hoping an employer will be fair and listen to a worker or workers is usually a bridge too far. Even if one has such a fair and open minded CEO, there is no guarntee that CEO will be there next week or next month. Workers have no legal say in their wages and conditions of employment without the right to collectively bargain, it is take it or resign. A negotiated contract guarantees conditions of employment regardless in changes to management personnel.

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