2011-02-25 / Front Page

Staff: PHC Taking Money

Using Deductions To Pay Bills
By Howard Schwach

Staff members at the Peninsula Hospital Center in Arverne have charged the hospital’s administration with taking their money earmarked for things such as payment to life insurance annuities and AFLAC payments and using the money to pay bills rather than for the staff members’ account.

In addition, union officials say, the hospital center has reneged on a deal cut late last year to pay for health insurance benefits.

“Termination of benefits letters have gone out to our Peninsula Hospital members, “ a February 15 letter from the union’s chief financial officer, Louise Bayer, said. “PHC did not make the $850,000 payment required to keep members’ benefits current. The hospital did send a lesser payment of $100,000 on February 14.”

“This can’t go on,” a longtime staffer who asked not to be identified for rear of retribution, told The Wave this week. “First it was our health benefits, and now I’m being notified by my annuity that the hospital has not been paying that since December, even though they took the money out of my paychecks.”

Several employees have contacted The Wave in the past two weeks, complaining that money deducted from their paychecks in order to pay for amenities such as insurance and AFLAC was not paid.

“I was told that the money is being used to pay bills and to buy supplies – to keep the hospital going,” a staffer said. “I want to keep my job and I want to keep the hospital going, but that is my money and they can’t just take it when they feel like it to pay their own bills. That is unconscionable.”

Calls for comment brought a response from Michael Hinck, the associate director of public affairs for Medisys, the health provider that owns and operates Peninsula Hospital Center.

“We continue to work with the union regarding payment arrangements and fully expect to come to a resolution,” Hinck said. The union says that all of the staffers at PHC will lose their medical benefits effective March 15. In November, just before another looming deadline, PHC cut a 15-day extension deal with the union that allowed the hospital center’s staffers to retain their health care coverage.

At the time, it was reported that the hospital owed the union “several millions of dollars.”

As part of that deal, PHC was to pay the $850,000 by February 15.

Both the failure to pay the requisite money to keep the employee health care benefits viable and the charge that the hospital is using employee money to pay bills and buy supplies adds to the belief on the part of many in the community that the hospital faces imminent bankruptcy and that the final straw may fall when new Medicaid rules are promulgated by New York State early next month.

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