Peninsula Hospital Center Union Members Rally
Union members rallied outside Peninsula Hospital Center this week as the workers attempted to inform the community about their quest for better benefits and improved health care for the Rockaway community.
On Wednesday the workers, affiliated with the SEUI 1199 United Health Care Union, set up outside the gates of PHC to, according to union vice president Jerry Nordenberg, rally for better health care in the Rockaways.
At the same time, the signs waved by protesters read “Save Our Jobs,” “Be Fair to Those Who Care” and “Tell MediSys: Restore Healthcare Benefits For All.”
“We’re here to [rally] for better healthcare for the Rockaways,” said Nordenberg, who added that the state’s Berger Commission, which looked at the state’s hospitals in 2006, called for the two hospitals in Rockaway to become “affiliated or come up which some kind of alliance.”
“At that point St. John’s Episcopal Hospital’s administration did not want to do it. Mr. [Robert] Levine [the CEO of PHC] did.”
He added that since then there have been 10 budget cuts for both hospitals and that PHC is in deep debt.
St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, which is owned by the Episcopal Health Network, was reorganized after going into bankruptcy several years ago and is now run by a consulting company.
“We’re asking for two things,” continued Nordenberg. “…to support an affiliation or alliance for better health care in the Rockaways and for local politicians and the community to petition the state to provide funds for Far Rockaway. … Currently we’re contemplating how much will be needed to make this work.”
Nordenberg also said they will be presenting a petition with 3,000 signatures to local elected officials at the end of this week.
“We can’t lose either hospital,” said Nordenberg, who pointed out that each facility provides different services to the community.
Ole Pedersen, the spokesperson for MediSys – which owns PHC – told The Wave that the rally was “informational picketing.”
“We’ve had talks primarily about what makes sense for the Rockaway peninsula with St. John’s and with state and elected officials,” said Pedersen. “It was something that was brought up by the Berger Commission and discussed in context of the report.”
He also said the two hospitals continue to talk to each other about “each other’s services and the needs of the community.” Pedersen also added that the facility is continuing to upgrade its services.
While he couldn’t comment on the union’s claims, he did say, “I believe they [the union] have issues with the benefits funds. It seems like now they are looking for other issues.”