Parents question patient privacy by hospitals after children as young as 10 months old receive political mailing

Press release: Continues a pattern of harassing behavior towards patients and nurses in a desperate attempt to protect CEO salaries and hospital bottom lines

CANTON – Yesterday, the Springfield Republican posted a story (“Baystate Health mass mailing over Question 1 alarming some recipients”) about alarming behavior by Baystate Health and the hospital executives that oversee their operations. According to the article:

The letter, which bears the facsimile signatures of four Baystate executives, covers the same arguments Baystate and other Massachusetts hospitals have used for months against Question 1, which would establish mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios in hospital settings statewide.

But it came in an otherwise plain envelope with the words “TIME SENSITIVE” in red under Baystate’s return address. Nowhere on the outside of the mailing are words or a logo saying “No on 1” or indicating that it is election mail and not a bill or urgent medical information.

A Baystate spokeswoman went on to deny that patient records were accessed in the development of this mailing, and that their list included “community members who engage with Baystate Health in a variety of ways.”

Since the posting of this article, we have been contacted by a number of patients who have shared their alarm and concern about their privacy, including parents whose children – as young as 10 months old – received this letter from Baystate Health.

“The reports and concerns reported to us by patients and hospital staff would make your stomach turn, but this is particularly disturbing. We have been sounding the alarm for months about the treatment that nurses have received during this campaign and the resulting hostile work environments. But to see these executives and managers abusing their power and access to patients is an appalling disregard for patient privacy, and draws a very clear distinction between both sides of this issue,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Co-chair of the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care. “I find it extremely hard to believe that Baystate did not use patient records to distribute this mailing. In what other ways might a 10-month old engage with Baystate?”

Patients have been bombarded with messages containing threats – some veiled, but many direct – about the future of the care they are receiving. Colleen Boyle, a patient in the Baystate Health system from South Hadley, said she received a letter from Baystate executives that amounted to an “abuse” of her patient information. The letter described “deep cuts to critical programs,” reduced access to patients and other negative consequences, while urging her to vote no.

“I received a letter from my health care provider, Baystate Health,” Boyle said. “I assumed it would be a reminder about an upcoming appointment or other information related to my health. Instead I was disappointed and aggravated to see a letter telling me how to vote on Question 1. I should not be receiving any political message from my health care provider. It is an abuse of my patient information and my trust, and it is a misuse of their supposedly limited resources.”

This behavior is not exclusive or unique to Baystate Health. We have received numerous reports, from across the state, of hospitals mailing deliberately false information, multiple times, to their former patients and their entire hospital coverage area.

  • At Sturdy Memorial Hospital, a patient in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program was told by a hospital administrator, while undergoing treatment, that if patients support Question 1, the hospital may be forced to close the cardiac rehabilitation program.
  • At South Shore Hospital and other hospitals, nurses are forced to hand out ‘No on 1’ propaganda to patients awaiting surgery or admission to the hospital. Those materials say that supporting Question 1 may result in patients: being denied emergency care, forced to wait longer for care, or losing entire services.
  • At Brockton Hospital and other hospitals, when patients log onto the patient portal for information about their care and test results, they see information urging them Vote No on 1, with links to this same information.

View additional examples.

At the outset of this campaign, the MNA mailed certified letters to every CEO of every hospital requesting the opportunity to share both sides of the issue, with the participation of proponents of Question 1, in the interest of presenting some level of fair and equal information. Many hospitals ignored the request all together, with others refusing. And each facility has taken various steps to prevent employees from discussing or wearing buttons in support of a Yes on 1 vote, while covering their facilities with “No on 1” propaganda.


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