NEWBURYPORT — Doctors have become the prime targets in an electrical union's campaign to get Anna Jaques Hospital to automatically choose union contractors for a $15 million expansion project.
A handful of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 have been holding signs in front of the hospital entrance for nearly a month, insisting that the hospital hire union workers who collect health insurance. Their campaign has steadily reached beyond the hospital administration; each week, protesters have been holding signs displaying website addresses specifically targeting local doctors.
Last week, union members protested in front of Newburyport Family Practice on Cherry Street to target Dr. Renae Freid. This week, the union is in front of the hospital's main entrance, targeting emergency room doctor John McLaulin.
Both of them, along with 22 other doctors affiliated with the local hospital, were on a handout and on a website published by Local 103 that listed the number of malpractice payments the doctors made during their medical career. Most of the doctors made one payment. Three doctors made two.
The information is public, but details of the malpractice cases are not.
The Daily News reached out to all the doctors on the list, but none would comment or return calls.
At the hospital, administrators vowed not to change their mind on how the building committee chooses an electrical contractor.
Deb Chiaravalloti, hospital spokeswoman, said nothing has changed since protesters first appeared near the hospital entrance on March 25. A building committee overseeing the project is receiving bids for another two weeks and will then choose a contractor, Chiaravalloti said.
"It hasn't changed our point of view and practice," Chiaravalotti said. "We're going to have a fair and open bidding process and choose the best electrical contractor for the job."
The hospital has called the tactics by the union "heavy-handed bullying."
The union appears to be stepping up its push against the hospital in a dispute involving the expansion project, which includes a new single-bed wing of hospital rooms, a new power plant and new outpatient entrance.
Which doctor the union will target next is not known.
Like the websites about Freid and McLaulin, there are similar Internet domain names for most of the 24 doctors listed on the union's original handout.
All the domains are registered by Local 103, but most of those sites are not active. Domains could not be found for two doctors from the list.
The website targeting Freid states how she made one malpractice payment in November 2004.
While a malpractice payment may be a black mark against a doctor, it has to be put into context, said attorney Patrick Morgan of Ipswich, who specializes in medical malpractice.
That includes the specialty the doctor works in, how many years he or she has been practicing and the number of patients seen.
"Not sure of what significance, if any, you may infer from that data," Morgan said.
The information was taken from the state Board of Registration in Medicine.
The board also makes public reports if a doctor has faced a criminal conviction, hospital discipline, or board discipline in 10 years. Freid has not faced any.
Only one doctor, Richard Finkelman, has faced a board discipline and a $5,000 fine.
The union members holding the signs last week would not comment and referred the media to Louis Antonellis, who also would not return phone calls. Antonellis is the business agent for Local 103.
In 2006, Antonellis was arrested by Boston police on charges that he walked into an upscale Boston restaurant on Newbury Street where union members were protesting, opened a shopping bag and released three rats.