Psychiatrists may be leaving New Hampshire Hospital over labor dispute 

Monitor staff
Published: 6/10/2016 6:35:49 PM

Roughly half the psychiatrists at New Hampshire Hospital will no longer work there on July 1, their attorney said, if the Executive Council approves a proposed contract extension at its next meeting Wednesday.

“I can’t believe it has gotten to this point,” said attorney Sean List, who represents eight psychiatrists and four advanced practice registered nurses that work at the state-run psychiatric hospital in Concord. “The last thing this group wants to see is for the hospital to be shut down or for it to have to limit its services.”

While most staff at New Hampshire Hospital are state employees, 19 psychiatrists, advanced-level nurses and administrators work there under a contract that expires June 30.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock is the sole bidder to take over the contract, but only a handful of the current psychiatric staff have agreed to work for the health care provider.

The remaining 12 – represented by List – said the compensation and benefits package was unfair, and formed their own practice group to try and compete.

The state has yet to award a contract. But the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a $3 million plan that extends the existing contract with Dartmouth College through October and tasks Dartmouth-Hitchcock with carrying out its terms.

But List said the DHHS proposal is not acceptable to the group he represents.

“It’s another political move,” List said. “The members of this group will not work for (Dartmouth-Hitchcock) temporarily, or otherwise.”

Department Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said four extra months gives the state time to “conclude the current procurement process” – when it decides whether to select Dartmouth-Hitchcock or reopen the bid process. The hospital will remain operational during the extension, Meyers said.

“We obviously have assurances from the college, and the hospital, that we know that there will absolutely be sufficient staff to ensure operations at the hospital,” he said.

The contract dispute is the latest hurdle for New Hampshire Hospital, which has faced a nursing shortage recently and was forced to delay the opening of a new 10-bed crisis unit.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock has pushed back on the psychiatrist group’s criticisms, saying its employment offers were “very generous.”

At least six members of the hospital’s current psychiatric staff have signed on with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. The health care provider is now running a nationwide recruiting effort to attract more staff, spokesman Rick Adams said. But, citing personnel issues, Adams declined to say exactly how many psychiatrists and nurses Dartmouth-Hitchcock has lined up to work at the hospital this summer.

Geisel Chairman of Psychiatry Dr. Alan Green said in a statement that he hopes the state “responds favorably” to Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s bid, “so that the Department of Psychiatry can continue its commitment to high-level care at New Hampshire Hospital.”

“The crisis regarding the provision of psychiatric care for patients in the region demands our attention and must be solved,” he said.

Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine has had the contract to staff New Hampshire Hospital since 1988. But as Geisel underwent a major reorganization recently, the medical school tried to shift the hospital psychiatrists and advanced nurses from its payrolls, to Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s.

Dr. Matthew Davis, a psychiatrist in the group List represents, has worked at New Hampshire Hospital for four years. Davis said he and others have been left out of all employment discussions.

“This is not our decision. Dartmouth College laid us off and Dartmouth-Hitchcock has rescinded our employment,” he said. “Our whole effort has been to preserve the well-being of our hospital.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at

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