MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – An announced partnership with Liberty Healthcare Corporation to outsource positions in its Behavioral Health Center will leave 150 civil service workers at the Westchester Medical Center without a job, union officials said.
“These are people from Westchester County that have worked there a long time and they pay taxes, pay rent, pay mortgages,” said Jess Ladlee, civil union spokeswoman for the CSEA. “And now some of them aren’t going to be able to afford that any longer.”
Ladlee said that social workers, psychiatric aides, recreation therapists and clerks will be let go from the center. The cuts are expected to take place on a rolling basis that will be finalized by March 1.
John Staino, president of the local Westchester County chapter of the CSEA, said that laid off employees will have the opportunity to re-apply for a position at the Medical Center, but that it is not guaranteed they will obtain the position and that Liberty Healthcare will be in charge of the selection process. He added that the employees who accept positions with Liberty Healthcare to remain at the medical center will receive a pay cut up to around 40 percent.
The Behavioral Health Center was established at the Westchester Medical Center in 1929 and deals with various psychiatric and mental health disorders. In a statement released Friday by the Westchester Medical Center, CEO Michael Israel said that the decision to partner up with Liberty was beneficial to keeping the Behavioral Health Center intact. The medical center said they anticipate saving $4 million dollars annually with the new partnership
“We must be strategic in our steps to preserve these programs for our region, while also focusing on continuing our efforts to improve the services and the quality of care we provide,” said Israel in the press release.
The statement went on to say that Israel is, “…enthusiastic about engaging Liberty Healthcare because WMC will be better positioned to deal with a very challenging national fiscal situation caused by various factors, including reduced Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.”
Staino said he believes the job cuts and outsourced employees will cause a major drop in quality at the medical center.
“They’re losing very experienced and hardworking individuals,” Staino said. “And the Behavioral Health Center deals with some of the most difficult patients.”
The announced layoffs come after the medical center laid off 81 civil service workers in early December. Staino said he anticipates more layoffs coming in the future, which could drastically change the makeup of the center.
“It seems like they’re ready to throw out all of the public service workers and privatize the whole hospital,” Staino said. “This is supposed to serve the community and it’s supposed to be a public benefit corporation, I’m not sure where they’re going with these cuts.”