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Harlem Hospital Doctors to Protest Layoffs

By Jeff Mays | October 12, 2010 3:07pm

By Jeff Mays

DNAInfo Reporter/Producer

HARLEM—Doctors at Harlem Hospital will take to the streets tomorrow to protest planned layoffs that they say will lead to a loss of services for patients.

"It's a rally to protect the patients in Harlem Hospital and patient services," said Maureen Connelly, spokeswoman for Doctors Council SEIU, the union that represents doctors at Harlem Hospital. "Doctors are schedueled to be laid off at the end of this year and medical serivces will be transferred to other hospitals."

Among the concerns, union officials say, are the transfer of Neurosurgery and rehab services.

In an effort to close a $1.3 billion budget gap, the Health and Hospitals Corporation announced a massive resturcturing in May. The changes included layoffs in addition to combining services, and a restructuring of the affiliations of the 11 hospitals that HHC oversees. Columbia University will end its finacial affiliation with Harlem Hospital, as a result.

HHC officials say the shortage is due to a reduction in federal aid and state Medicaid funding and a major increase in pension and medical insurance costs for employees. By 2014, HHC will have reduced its overall staff of 38,000 by 10 percent.

Harlem Hospital is slated to lose 41 employees, 13 of them doctors, by the end of this year. The staff cuts will save approximately $5.1 million. The Doctors Council SEIU says the numbers of doctors who could be lost are higher.

For the last year, 23 vacant doctor positions have not been filled, forcing more work out of the current staff of 200 doctors, union officals say.

Doctor's Council SEIU says it is expecting 15 to 20 doctors, almost 10 percent of the staff, to be laid off by Dec. 31. Due to the layoffs and affiliation change, another 30 doctors are expected to leave for "fear of declining patient standards," union officials say.

The potential losses, combined with an all ready reduced staff, will reduce the level of care available to Harlem Hospital patients. More than 250,000 people visited a Harlem Hospital clininc last year while the emergency room had 75,000 patients.

Earlier this year, North General Hospital shut its doors and was replaced by a primary care clinic. Union workers there marched last month to protest the loss of jobs at the facility.

HHC officials said care was taken to make sure the agency can continue its mission of serving New Yorkers. Last year, HHC facilities served 1.3 million New Yorkers, 450,000 of whom were uninsured.

"Before these decisions were made, all of these issuea were looked at and decisions were made so patient care would not be affected," said HHC spokeswoman Evelyn Hernandez.