Despite threatening to strike over lost pension and tuition benefits, doctors at Harlem Hospital Center ultimately conceded and signed an 18-month contract mainly due to "restore[d] elements of patient care" reports the New York Times.
Those elements include a promise that no cuts will be made to any divisions or departments, a reduction in doctor layoffs from 20 to 6 and a guarantee that the neurosurgery and rehabilitation departments that would have been transferred to Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center and Metropolitan Hospital, respectively, will stay at Harlem.
The loss of the tuition benefit, in particular, was a tough pill to swallow for the doctors, though. Because of a $1 billion deficit, Health and Hospitals Corporation ended some of its ties with medical schools. That included Harlem's affiliation with Columbia University which, among other things, offered free tuition for children of hospital employees who chose to attend that school. For employees' children who opted for other colleges, Columbia footed as much as 50 percent of the bill.
That benefit will be phased out over a four-year span by Physician Affiliate Group of New York, selected by HHC to run Harlem and the aforementioned Lincoln, reports DNAinfo.
"We know HHC is hemorrhaging money," Dr. Barry Liebowitz, president of the Doctors Council S.E.I.U., said in a statement. "The doctors decided to sacrifice for the community."
Still, according to HHC spokeswoman Evelyn Hernandez, the doctors are walking away with "modest salary increase[s]" to be paid for with the money saved by lowered pension contributions.
"We appreciate that the union and its membership have recognized the economic realities that challenge HHC and the city and have accepted a fair and comparable package," she said in a statement.