2010-11-19 / Front Page

PHC Health Benefits Saved At The Bell

By Nicholas Briano
Late Monday night, just before a looming deadline, Peninsula Hospital Center struck a deal with the health care workers union to save it’s nearly 800 employees from losing the union-supplied health care coverage, according to reports.

The hospital, located at Beach Channel Drive and Beach 51 Street, reportedly owes the union back payments to cover employees under the union’s healthcare plan. Although specific figures were not made public, union officials told The Wave they estimate the amount the hospital owes the union to be in the several millions of dollars.

Employees of the hospital belong to Local 1199 SEIU and they faced the prospect of losing their benefits at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Peninsula employees rallied in the hospital lobby on Monday morning during a raucous protest, calling on hospital administrators to pay up.

Peninsula Hospital Center CEO Bob Levine was reticent about providing the workers with the details of what is owed and how it could be paid, which sent them into a frenzy. He assured them that he was working toward not having any interruption in their benefits.

At the last minute, Levine and MediSys, which now owns Peninsula Hospital Center, were able to work out a 15-day extension, which enables the hospital to set up a payment plan or send one lump sum to the union to complete its back payments. The new deadline for a permanent solution has been set as November 30.

“We expect that most of the issues are close to resolution,” MediSys representative Ole Pedersen said. “We expect within this 15-day period it will be resolved.”

Union officials believe it is “highly unlikely” that Peninsula Hospital will be sending a lump sum payment and expects a payment plan to be set up in the upcoming weeks.

“The most important thing is that the employees will not lose any of their benefits,” 1199 SEIU representative Leah Gonzalez said.

Reports of Peninsula Hospital Center being in financial trouble have surfaced over recent years. In early 2009 the hospital merged with the health care group MediSys, which currently operates Jamaica Hospital, Flushing Hospital and Brookdale Hospital. The group also boasts a network of nursing homes and rehabilitation centers as well as 16 neighborhood-based family healthcare centers in Queens.

The motive for the merger between PHC and Medisys was never made public. However, many in the community speculated at the time that the hospital was in deep financial trouble and even in danger of bankruptcy.

Peninsula officials have continually denied rumors that the hospital is in danger of closing.

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