Will They Survive?
Shelly Ginnis (left) of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital updates Congressman Anthony Weiner and Democratic District Leader Lew Simon on the events at the hospital.
By John McLoughlin
Employees of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital declared victory as the adminstration reversed a decision to end health benefits just days before the November 1 cut-off date.
Since declaring a "financial crisis" earlier in the year, Episcopal Health Services had asked Local 1199 to pay monies toward the Benefit Fund. With EHS owing $10 million to the 1199 Benefit Fund, the union was unable to continue carrying the medical benefits of employees. A notice was issued by EHS that benefits would end November 1, 1999, which resulted in an outcry by employees.
Employees rallied on Friday, October 22, chanting "Save St. John’s" and ‘This is not a fight, this is a struggle."
That same day, Arnold Katz, chief financial officer of EHS, contacted Eleanor Tilson, executive director of 1199 National Benefit Fund, and said that "EHS agrees to make the following payments to avoid enforcement of outstanding judgement and to ensure that employees’ health benefits may continue."
EHS planned to pay $100,000 to the Benefit Fund by October 29 and further contributions to the fund would begin November 15, with arrears payments of $200,000 per month thereafter.
Katz also said EHS is willing to work with a crisis committee, which will ensure the future of payments.
Employees were also victorious in having an independent consultant accepted to review the finances of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and EHS. Local 1199 offered Dr. Fred Hyde, known for saving Flushing Hospital and Brookdale Hospital during their financial difficulties, to assist the administration.
As several employees explained, Dr. Hyde’s involvement will "expose any spending or misspending by EHS." Many employees are still calling for a federal investigation into financial management of profits, claiming that EHS has been diverting finances earmarked for Far Rockaway to other corporate interests.
Calls to EHS were not returned as of press time Thursday.