October 30, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – As the Big Apple continues to deal with the fallout from its first confirmed case of Ebola, contract negotiations between the city and its doctors are reaching a fever pitch – and safety net physicians who have been without a contract for as long as five years say they will no longer be batted back and forth between the Health and Hospitals Corporation [HHC] and its affiliates.
“There’s no safe staffing going on, quality issues are at stake, waiting lines are getting longer and longer in the clinics, and getting follow up appointments are even getting further down the pike – sometime six months or more to see a sub specialist,” Doctors Council President Dr. Frank Proscia told a rally outside Woodhull Hospital in Bed-Stuy on Wednesday.
Health Committee Chair Assemblyman Richard Gottfried [D-District 75], outlined the plight of city doctors and insisted that it is time for HHC to “step up and face its responsibilities, and make sure that the Doctors Council gets a good contract.”
“[HHC] contracts out [doctor] employment to so-called affiliates,” the assemblyman said. “So, when the doctors want to talk about the terms and conditions of their work – when doctors want to talk about engagement in the running of facilities – the affiliates say, ‘Well, actually, we don’t run the hospitals, so we can’t help you.’ And when the doctors go to talk to HHC, HHC says, ‘We don’t actually employ you, you’ve got to talk to the affiliates.’ It’s back and forth. That is not acceptable.”
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer took the de Blasio administration directly to task.
“On the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, it is simply outrageous that City Hall is talking one way, and not acting in the right way,” the comptroller said. “We need a contract that respects doctors and recognizes the work that you do. This is the way to make our city whole. It makes economic sense.”
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo [D-District 35] was even more critical in her remarks, calling the situation that has allowed Woodhull doctors to go without a contract for more than five years, “crazy,” “unfair” and “racist.”
“This is a community of color,” the councilwoman said. “Anywhere safety net hospitals are serving predominately Black and Latino, and low income people, they predominately have the worse services, they predominately are not given the most resources, and they are predominately under threat of being closed.”
Despite assertions to the contrary, Assemblyman Gottfried said that HHC is clearly the responsible party in contract negotiation with doctors.
“State law says the Health and Hospitals Corporation runs the hospitals,” Assemblyman Gottfried said. “For the Health and Hospitals Corporation to say that 'we are not responsible for the doctors, don’t come talk to us,' is an outrage.”
State Senator Martin Dilan [D-District 18] said that he wants “happy” doctors and nurses treating his constituents.
“Some contracts have been settled, but the catch-22 that the assemblyman referred to, has to stop,” State Senator Dilan said.
Dr. Bob Mishkin, a radiologist at Woodhull Hosptial, said that he and his colleagues would rather be inside treating patients.
“But HHC and NYU have disrespected the doctors and patients of this community and other communities for too long,” Dr. Mishkin said. “We deserve better. We call on HHC and NYU to take responsibility, and settle a fair contract now.”
HHC affiliates include Mount Sinai Hospital, New York University School of Medicine and the Physician Affiliate Group of New York.