Stuck it out through turbulent year
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hundreds of nurses, technicians and other staffers at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill received layoff notices this week, as the final round of bidding for the hospital is approaching a key deadline.
The layoffs, which affect up to 600 employees, will take place April 12, 30 days from the time employees received their notices, according to SUNY spokesperson David Doyle.
SUNY says the layoffs will align “staffing levels with patient volumes and currently available services, which will not change.”
It was almost exactly a year ago – on March 19, 2013 -- when SUNY first attempted to lay off LICH’s employees. Staff at the hospital, many who have worked there for decades, joined with community groups and patients to stave off SUNY’s attempts to shut it down, resulting in a legal “standstill” until litigation could be resolved.
That litigation resulted in a new Request for Proposals (RFP), with the goal of “a full service inpatient hospital that reflects the values and needs of the community.” Proposals for LICH are due March 19, and SUNY will be exiting the premises in May.
SUNY spokesperson David Doyle said in a statement, “In accordance with the universally supported settlement agreement and the contracts of affected bargaining units, LICH has begun the process of aligning staffing levels with patient volume and currently available services, which will not change.
“Approximately 600 employees including nurses, doctors, technicians, patient care associates and support services staff have received 30 day layoff notices. At the direction of the SUNY Board of Trustees, services such as resume writing, job search skills and job fairs are being provided for employees during this transition period.”
A source told the Brooklyn Eagle, however, that the number of nurses getting layoff notices is less than expected because patient “census numbers are up” at LICH and more nurses are needed to care for patients. This source said roughly 170 nurses had been notified this week that they were being laid off.
LICH’s ER has been treating 75 -85 patients a day and 35 patients were admitted as of Tuesday, the source told the Eagle.
Susan Raboy, spokesperson for the group Patients for LICH, credited the nurses and healthcare workers with sustaining LICH throughout a very difficult year filled with repeated layoff notices, hospital shutdowns, ambulance diversions and daily disruptions.
“When I was in the ICU, the nurses and healthcare workers were the most amazing, courageous staff despite all the stress of this last year,” she told the Eagle. “I honestly believe the nurses that started this fight were not in it about the jobs – it was about saving the hospital and taking care of patients.”
“From the person who swept the floor to the nurse who changed out bandages, they are our heroes,” she added.
“This fight is a lot bigger than jobs,” Linda O’Neil, a nurse at LICH and NYSNA member said in a statement. “Our priority has always been to stop this trend of hospitals closing without regard for community needs. Despite uncertainty and harassment, we have stayed and kept on fighting because we knew that if we allowed those doors to close, it would have been one more hospital down in this trend that is hurting patients across Brooklyn. As nurses, we have an obligation to the community – to safeguard them and be advocates for them. That’s what we’ve been doing, and that’s what we will continue to do.”
While 1199SEIU did not provide exact layoff figures by press time, Kevin Finnegan, Director of Politics & Legislation, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said in a statement, “We are very proud of our members at LICH, who have been more concerned for care in the community than in the security of their jobs. Thanks to their perseverance, the hospital has remained open.
He added, “We are hopeful that the new RFP process will ensure continuity and even enhancement of care for the community surrounding LICH. However, we are dismayed that SUNY has chosen to deliver layoff notices to so many workers. We will continue to stand up for care and jobs at LICH, and will be working with our job security fund to get these members placed within the healthcare industry as efficiently as possible."