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41 layoffs at Carthage Area Hospital are Local 1199 members

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CARTHAGE — Nearly half of the 90 layoffs at Carthage Area Hospital are from members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1199, according to union Vice President Kathleen M. Tucker.

She said 41 Local 1199 members — including those in dietary, housekeeping, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and unit coordinators — will lose their jobs, beginning Feb. 14.

“There were a lot of tears,” she said. “They are shocked and very, very saddened. These are long-term workers that have been laid off.”

Ms. Tucker said these cuts represent the largest layoff she can remember in recent years at the hospital. Local 1199 members not affected include staff members who work in the skilled nursing and radiology units.

“As far as I know, this right now is kind of a moving target,” she said. “Things are being adjusted as needed. The initial plan was to move dietary to Meadowbrook, and to put something for food for workers within the hospital.”

One staff member told the Times last week that a Subway Sandwich shop would be going into the hospital, but Ms. Tucker said she was unaware if that was true. Calls seeking comment from Chief Operating Officer Richard A. Duvall were unsuccessful Monday.

The hospital, however, issued a statement Friday which said staff and employees remain “dedicated and committed to provide the same level of high quality health care services that we have been providing since 1965.” That statement did not provide any information about the layoffs.

The hospital announced Thursday that it would lay off 90 employees as part of a restructuring and service alignment plan, which came just three months after a work force reduction of 29 people.

“I hope this isn’t an indication of where we’re headed,” Ms. Tucker said. “We just had a big change at E.J. Noble. Quite frankly, this was a surprise. I just hope this stabilizes the facility so they can continue to provide care to the Carthage community. We definitely don’t want to lose our hospital. If this is the only way we can keep our hospital, it has to be done.”

Union officials will meet with hospital administrators later this week, she said, as they would like more information on the changes, and “bargain over the impact of these changes.”

Although administrators have been mum to the Times on the restructuring plan details, Ms. Tucker said some Local 1199 members will be able to bid for new positions that are a creation of the consolidated medical/surgical, critical care and pediatric beds. She also said there has been talk of the hospital adding a fourth operating room.

“The face of health care is changing across the country, and certainly north country,” Ms. Tucker said.

The hospital will look to collaborations with five other regional hospitals, as part of a two-year effort they’ve been working on to reduce unnecessary repeat Medicaid admissions. Work being done by the local group is ahead of the newly formed North Country Health Systems Redesign Commission, to which members were appointed by the state Department of Health to assess the scope of care in the north country, assess residents’ health care needs and the system’s ability to meet them, recommend ways to ensure providers survive and identify opportunities for mergers, affiliations or partnerships.

Ben Moore III, chief executive officer of River Hospital, Alexandria Bay, and the six-hospital group spokesman, said what people are seeing happen at the Carthage hospital is “a symptom of the transformation that is happening” in health care.

“New York is under stress,” he said. Unless we come up with a system to adjust, (hospitals) will collapse.”

Ms. Tucker said the latter cannot be an option.

“You can’t have a situation where you’re shutting down north country hospitals,” she said. “If you’re having a heart attack and need to come to Carthage Area Hospital, but have to go somewhere else, it could mean life and death.”

Calls seeking comment to representatives of the New York State Nurses Association, which represents registered nurses, were unsuccessful Monday.

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