Jacksons employees lead rally for jobs

caines | 3/8/2012, 4 a.m.

Layoffs imminent for 920 hospital workers

Early Tuesday morning while the Miami-Dade County commissioners were in session, a boisterous group of Jackson Memorial Health System [JMHS] employees and supporters voiced their concerns outside in the shadow of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center. At stake are an estimated 920 employees who will get their pink slips as early as April. Cuts include: 600 nurses, 14 doctors and 31 medical professionals 195 vacant positions would also be eliminated. The cuts we are planning to make will still allow us to maintain patients at the standard for which Jackson Memorial Health System is known, said Ed ODell, spokesperson for the JMHS. The quality of care for our patients will not suffer. Protesting employees were armed with T-shirts, posters that said we are the 99 percent and even whistles to gain the attention of passersby and county officials. One nurse was heard saying, We wont go quietly because of our patients and our families. Her statement seems to support the criticisms that have been lodged at Jackson. While ODell says the cuts will make the hospital more efficient, critics say patient care will inevitably suffer. As the rally went on, employees were informed that they had been granted a slight reprieve. County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez has agreed to convene a public hearing where both sides can weigh-in on the Jackson plan as proposed by Jacksons president and CEO, Carlos A. Migoya. (A date for the meeting had not been set at the time this story went to press).

What kinds of cuts can the public anticipate?

ODell says layoffs will include both clinical and non-clinical positions. These decisions are based upon thorough department-by-department reviews designed to properly align our workforce with decreasing patient volumes and our business plan it will mean a total reduction of 1,115 positions. By the time these reductions are completed at the end of April, Jackson will have approximately 10 percent fewer employees than it did last summer. These actions will save Jackson approximately $69 million per year with the cost of salaries and benefits. Combined with other staffing initiatives, it will save Jackson approximately $91 million per year. This does not include substantial additional savings created by the approval of new three-year contracts with SEIU, which eliminate automatic raises and require employees, for the first time, to begin contributing toward their retirement. We are hopeful that a similar agreement with AFSCME can be reached soon. In the meantime, Jackson plans to create 350 new part-time positions to pick up the slack. Employees who are represented by a collective-bargaining unit will be notified by April 6th if they are going to be impacted, followed by a 21-day notice as required in union contracts.

Can Jackson weather the storm?

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez believes that Jackson can stay afloat with sound decisions. No one wants to see layoffs but that can only happen if employees are willing to make more concessions, he said. Jackson has been operating in the red for years now they cant continue on that course any longer. We need Jackson in this community. ODell agrees that Jacksons officials have to make tough choices if they want to remain in business. Our taxpayer-owners rightfully demand that we operate as efficiently and effectively as possible, he said. We are positioning Jackson to be the model health care provider for the generations to come. In terms of our financial health, we are trending in a positive direction as both our December 2011 and January 2012 reports indicate. Randy Grice contributed to this report. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com