St. Vincent’s layoffs, pay cuts as Mass. group eyes hospital

By Albert Amateau

Members of the United Healthcare Workers union Local 1199, who represent about 1,500 of the 3,500 employees at St. Vincent’s Hospital, were voting Tuesday on whether to agree to a 10 percent pay cut for 120 days in order to help the hospital survive during the next four months.

In addition to asking employees in various categories to accept temporary pay cuts ranging from 10 to 25 percent to stave off the hospital’s closing, St. Vincent’s on Fri., Feb. 12, began laying off 300 more employees.

A Local 1199 official noted that of the 300 laid-off employees about 160 were members of the healthcare workers union.

“All stakeholders in St. Vincent’s are

doing their part and making sacrifices to keep St. Vincent’s open,” said Kevin Finnegan, 1199 political director. “We will work hard to place laid-off members in comparable jobs at other institutions,” he said.

St. Vincent’s executives have also taken a 25 percent salary reduction.

The layoff last week came on top of a layoff of 180 staff members in December.

Sister Jane Iannucelli, vice chairperson of St. Vincent’s board of directors, said on Friday, “St. Vincent’s is truly facing the greatest challenge of its 160-year history and today’s actions are painful for everyone at the hospital. Those losing their jobs have done absolutely nothing wrong and have shown true passion and excellence each and every day. However, our financial situation is such that these steps are needed if we hope to keep our core services functioning.”

St. Vincent’s has been seeking a partner to help it survive a financial crisis that includes a monthly loss of between $5 million and $10 million and a total debt of $700 million. Last month, Continuum Health Partners, which operates Roosevelt and St. Luke’s hospitals on W. 59th and W. 114th Sts., respectively, on the West Side and Beth Israel Hospital on E. 16th St. on the East Side, offered to take over St. Vincent’s. Under the plan, Continuum would have eliminated St. Vincent’s acute care, surgical and Level 1 trauma center and emergency room functions, and operated the hospital as a community health service for ambulatory patients.

But the proposal raised an outcry among elected officials and neighborhood residents, as well as St. Vincent’s directors. Governor Paterson announced loans of $6 million and $3 million to the hospital since the beginning of the month, and GE Financial, which holds $300 million in St. Vincent’s debt with TD Bank, advanced a $2 million loan. But the Bloomberg administration and the federal government so far have not made any commitments to the hospital.

Early this month, Stanley Brezenoff, C.E.O. of Continuum, formally withdrew the offer to operate the hospital minus its major components.

But St. Vincent’s is still looking for a white knight.

Last week representatives from Caritas Christi Health Care, a Massachusetts group considering a rescue of St. Vincent’s, toured the hospital’s Greenwich Village campus at Seventh Ave. and W. 12th St.

On Tuesday, a St. Vincent’s spokesperson said, “We are currently in talks with numerous potential partners and look forward to working with all stakeholders to determine what will be the best overall partnership — allowing us to both financially restructure to regain our fiscal stability and continue providing quality healthcare to the West Side of Manhattan. However, we have to respect the confidentiality of these discussions.”

The hospital is currently operating under the direction of Mark Toney, a partner in Grant Thornton, LLP, a restructuring service.