Wisconsin judge blocks hospital workers from starting new jobs with better pay

The uncertainty is the latest development in a battle over health care employees

By Alex Henderson

Published January 25, 2022 12:20AM (EST)

Doctor in PPE that includes a face shield and two face masks is on duty in the Zakarpattia Regional Clinical Infectious Diseases Hospital that treats COVID-19 patients, Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine. (Serhii Hudak/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Doctor in PPE that includes a face shield and two face masks is on duty in the Zakarpattia Regional Clinical Infectious Diseases Hospital that treats COVID-19 patients, Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine. (Serhii Hudak/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a vicious cycle in American hospitals. Overwhelmed by the stress the pandemic has created, many medical workers have left their hospital jobs — at a time when hospital workers are needed more than ever.

Leaving those jobs doesn't necessarily mean that they have left the medical professional altogether; some have left for other medical jobs. In Wisconsin, employees of ThedaCare left for jobs with Ascension Northeast Wisconsin — and ThedaCare responded by taking legal action in the hope of keeping them longer.

CRAZY\u2014When 7 Wisconsin hospital workers quit to work at another hospital for better pay & work/life balance, the 1st hospital didn't try to match the 2nd hospital's offer. It instead got a judge to issue a temporary order blocking the workers from leaving.https://www.postcrescent.com/story/news/2022/01/21/what-we-know-ascension-thedacare-court-battle-over-employees/6607417001/\u00a0\u2026

— Steven Greenhouse (@Steven Greenhouse) 1642971371

Madeline Heim, a science reporter for the Appleton Post-Crescent in Wisconsin, explains, "It was unclear whether a group of former ThedaCare employees would be allowed to start their new jobs at Ascension Northeast Wisconsin Monday after lawyers for both health systems made their first appearance in court Friday morning. The uncertainty is the latest development in a battle over health care employees that began late Thursday and is now playing out in court. It comes as staff shortages strain health systems nationwide — nearly one in five health care workers have quit their jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic."

This has been a local Wisconsin story -- a friend in Wisconsin brought it to my attention. Only now, thanks in part to social media, is the national media learning about this, and I hope some in the national media will cover it.

— Steven Greenhouse (@Steven Greenhouse) 1643034233

Added to court docs today is a letter from Timothy Breister, one of the 7 employees. \n\nBreister wrote he applied to the Ascension job for better work-life balance & was told when asking Theda to match the offer that "the long term expense ... was not worth the short term cost."

— Madeline Heim (@Madeline Heim) 1642810678

In Wisconsin, Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Mark McGinnis, Heim notes, temporarily blocked the medical workers from starting their new jobs with Ascension. ThedaCare asked the judge to keep them from starting at Ascension until replacements could be found.

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"The employees were part of an 11-member interventional radiology and cardiovascular team, which can perform procedures to stop bleeding in targeted areas during a traumatic injury or restore blood flow to the brain in the case of a stroke," Heim notes. "Each of them (was) employed at-will, meaning they were not under an obligation to stay at ThedaCare for a certain amount of time."


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