Editor's Note: This corrects an earlier version.
New London — Unions representing nurses, technical workers and support staff at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital launched an "I Am L+M" campaign Wednesday to protest recent decisions they say undermine patient care and the hospital's community mission.
"We are serving a community hospital that in my opinion is turning its back on the community," said Harry Rodriguez, president of the L+M health care workers union, part of AFT Connecticut.
Instead of asking for concessions from workers, Rodriguez said, top administrators at L+M should "lead by example" and take pay cuts. He referred to concerns that the hospital was seeking to outsource cleaning and dining services.
In the brief rally outside the hospital, attended by about 25 workers, several elected officials and other supporters, AFT representatives announced that a series of public service announcements about the hospital will air during evening news shows on local cable television outlets starting this week. They also invited people to visit www.iamlandm.org and sign a petition to "stand standing for quality care" and "hold the corporation running L+M accountable to the community it is supposed to serve."
"The hospital is putting profits before patients," said Lisa D'Abrosca, president of the union representing registered nurses. Her union and one that represents licensed practical nurses and technicians recently began contract negotiations with the hospital.
Specifically, union leaders faulted L+M leaders for characterizing the hospital as financially healthy when it sought to purchase The Westerly Hospital, while there have been recent layoffs of 77 workers, closures of community service programs, relocations of other services from the main hospital and the salaries of top hospital administrators.
"I have a problem with cutting the teen pregnancy prevention program and child safety seat checks, and moving the ob-gyn clinic and psychiatric clinic off grounds, where patients don't have access," said Stephanie Johnson, president of the union representing technicians and licensed practical nurses.
Hospital spokesman Mike O'Farrell said the hospital is looking to keep itself financially healthy in an increasingly difficult health care environment.
"The environment is changing," he said. "We're trying to position the hospital to be in the best place for the next century. The focus is the highest quality patient care at the lowest cost. We're trying to increase revenues and reduce costs."
O'Farrell said he does not expect the union's campaign will impact the willingness of patients to seek care at L+M.
"L+M's been here 100 years, and we are ingrained in the community," he said. "When people come to the door, they get treated."
Joining the union at the rally were City Councilors Marie Friess-McSparran and Anthony Nolan; Council President Michael Passero; Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio; state Rep. Ernie Hewett, D-New London; state Rep. Timothy Bowles, D-Preston; and state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague.