WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 – Ahead of tomorrow’s Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee field hearing in New Brunswick, New Jersey on the national nursing crisis, Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked Mark Manigan, the CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, and Alan Lee, the CEO of the non-profit Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, to reconsider their decision not to attend.
“I am disappointed that the executives at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital system, Mark Manigan and Alan Lee, declined to testify at tomorrow’s hearing,” Sanders said.
“There are a number of questions that I wanted to ask them. I was particularly interested in having them explain to the committee how it happens that they could afford to spend some $90 million on traveling nurses, but somehow could not afford to sign a fair contract with their own nurses to increase patient safety at their nonprofit hospital. I was also interested in learning how they could afford to pay their CEO over $17 million in compensation in 2021, but apparently cannot afford to mandate the same safe nurse-patient ratios that have been in place in California for nearly 20 years.
“We have been pleased to receive the written testimony from the hospital and that will be part of the record. But it is far more important that Mr. Manigan and Mr. Lee show up in person to respond to questions. I hope they will reconsider their decision not to testify.”
The field hearing comes as nurses and other health care workers around the country stand together and go on strike, including 1,700 nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. Nurses at the hospital went out on the picket line on August 4 after hospital leadership refused to establish safe staffing levels and improve dangerous working conditions that have put the health of patients at risk.
Meanwhile, in 2021, the top five executives in the hospital system made $40 million in compensation and, instead of bargaining in good faith, are paying traveling nurses up to $300 an hour to replace striking workers.
The nursing crisis is a major focus of the HELP Committee under Sanders. In February, the committee held a hearing on the topic and Sanders made nurses a major focus of his work on historic legislation to help solve the primary care crisis in America.
What: Senate HELP Committee Field Hearing
When: 9:00 a.m. ET, Friday, October 27, 2023
Where: Nicholas Music Center, Rutgers University, 85 George St., New Brunswick, N.J. The hearing will also be livestreamed on the HELP Committee’s website.
Who: HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders. See here for the list of testifying panelists.
Doors Open: Doors will open at 7:45 a.m. ET for press and witness guests, and 8 a.m. ET for the general public.