Harlem Hospital workers rallied today to stop proposed cuts in the number of doctors on staff. A few hundred people came out to a rally across the street from the hospital, one of New York City’s 11 public hospitals and one of the few health care options for the uninsured.
The Doctors Council SEIU, which represents physicians at Harlem, called the demonstration in protest of layoffs as the hospital ends its affiliation with Columbia University Medical Center. For the past 60 years, CUMC has been contracted to provide medical staff: currently, 20 out of out of 220 physicians will likely be laid off. Another 20 to 30 doctors plan to resign in protest. The doctors’ concerns were outlined in two “Open Letters” to the City’s administration and to Columbia University (first printed in the Amsterdam News and reproduced below).
The Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU and a few DC37 locals also turned out members. The list of speakers included a “Who’s Who” of Harlem elected officials: David Dinkins, Al Sharpton, Charlie Rangel, State Senator Bill Perkins, local NAACP President Hazel Dukes and Charles Barron.
These cuts, along with the rest of the recent layoffs across the City’s public health care system (Health and Hospitals Corporation, HHC), are part of the so-called “Road Ahead” plan developed by the Bloomberg administration and Alan Aviles (president of HHC). This plan, developed with the help of Deloitte Consulting firm, calls for a total of 10 percent reduction in the 40,000 member HHC workforce over 4 the next years. True to form for the Bloomberg administration, Aviles cites the importance of “Making Hospitals Lean”, based on a model borrowed from Toyota’s management strategy (see the Solidarity pamphlet “Lean Production: Why Work is Worse Than Ever, and What’s the Alternative? for an in depth analysis). Needless to say, cars and healthcare a different, but both plans are thoroughly anti-worker.
The rally today shows a bit of energy from some of the unions at Harlem Hospital (though with fairly weak coordination or preparation among the rank-and-file). With a decent turnout and lively rally, we heard promises from the politicians that they’d “start the negotiations in earnest now!” and “make Bloomberg find the money!” But with no solid next-steps for building the power among the workers needed to force the City to back down, we’re left to wonder if this is the beginning of a campaign of escalating pressure, or if this was the extent of the strategy.
This article was originally published on the Solidarity Webzine on Oct. 14.