Hospital in Harlem shuts doors Friday

July 2, 2010 2:56:47 PM PDT
North General Hospital in Harlem closes its doors Friday.

"She gave me my letter, I said, 'what's this?' And she said 'it's your letter of termination' and that's it," said Luis Rivera and HIV Counselor.

Luis Rivera got the bad news early Friday morning.

North General Hospital employees heard on Monday that the hospital was bankrupt and closing.

Just four days letter they got termination letters, and were told to go home.

"I'm just, kind of like feel I've been smacked around. I don't even know where I am," Rivera said.

"It's devastating. I don't know about anyone else but I live paycheck to paycheck," said Maria Ramos, a former hospital worker.

For patients at North General, the news is just about as bad, as many of them learned of the abrupt change on Friday.

"It's the one institution that we really felt like it was in our community and they cared, they actually cared about this community, and now we don't know what's happening," said Delia Smith, a patient.

The hospital is $200 million in debt, and on Monday, the governor made it sound as if he had a solution, the problem was fixed, but employees say that's not true.

The plan is to close the hospital and turn it into a big clinic, a nursing home, and rehab center.

But not all 900 employees from the hospital can move over to the new facility, it's not even close.

"There is no way, shape, or form and you can ask any clinic out there, that they can hire 900 workers in a clinic, it's like a twilight zone," said Neva Shillingford, of 1199 SEIU Union VP.

Instead of 900 openings, the union guesses there might be a couple hundred.

Old North General, like St. Vincent's just a couple months ago, will close down July 20th.

Most workers are out of luck, and angry.

"Of course I'm upset, of course, of course. For 20 years here and I should now leave this hospital? Come on! Come on! Yeah it's bad, it's bad," said Jean Joseph, a laid-off worker.