NEW YORK NURSE: March 2009
by Mark Genovese
It took seven weeks, but the 45 RNs at the Taylor Care Center finally received word that they would still have jobs elsewhere in Westchester County Medical Center when the nursing home shuts down on April 1.
The medical center said the closing, which involved the loss of 400 jobs, was necessary to balance its budget. RNs were given only 48 hours to decide whether to take a severance offer. But the offer’s terms were murky. Despite several meetings, nobody in medical center management would provide details.
“What was really irritating was that the medical center must have applied months ahead of time to close the nursing home, because the State Health Department gave the plan quick approval,” said Kevin Smith, associate NYSNA Economic and General Welfare Program director.
Smith added that 100 new nurses were hired during the last quarter of 2008, when medical center officials knew that the closure was likely to be approved. “Yet nothing was said to employee unions until we received the federally required notice.”
Taylor Care RNs, many of whom are long-time veterans, suspected this tactic was an attempt to pressure them to resign. NYSNA applied pressure of its own, however, continuing to demand full information about the severance package. This bought the time necessary to determine whether there would be openings for the RNs.
“Thankfully, they weren’t forced to make life-changing decisions without proper time or information,” Smith said. “The ramifications could have been detrimental to their income and health care for the rest of their lives. It’s possible that, without NYSNA’s vigilance during this time, the Taylor Care nurses would have been let go in favor of new RNs who earn less and wouldn’t be entitled to retirement health benefits.”
NYSNA is still concerned about the impact of the closing on residents and their families. Many residents have already gone to other nursing homes. Although the community and elected officials have criticized the medical center for its history of excessive executive salaries, management responded that such complaints are “silly and simplistic” and “not understanding of the complexity of this institution.”
When the closing was announced, management had promised that 19 executives would also be laid off. But the medical center has a history of hiring managers back into other positions. Soon after it announced the closure of the nursing facility, the medical center hired two more vice presidents and has continued to pay consultants.