Westchester Medical Center lays off hundreds

December 9, 2011 2:26:19 PM PST
Facing a staggering budget deficit, hundreds of Westchester Medical Center workers are getting laid off. Many of them are nurses.

"We've all been treated like dogs actually. It's been so upsetting," nurse Deborah Madsen said.

She was taking care of patients in the neurological intensive care unit at Westchester Medical Center when she found out she's getting laid off.

"I was doing patient care this morning, and they asked me to come into the back room and told me, 'that's it, for you,'" she said

She's not the only one. As many as 132 of the nurses here at the hospital will see their positions eliminated. One-hundred-five support staff, including physical therapists and social workers, and 104 vacant positions are also being eliminated.

The CEO of the medical center called the cuts "gut-wrenching," but refused our requests for an on-camera interview. What we know is the problem is escalating pension costs.

This facility is a public hospital serving 7 counties.

"We survive with re-imbursement and as costs go up with medical care, we need help," Sam Caquias of the New York State Nurses Association.

On top of that, there's the worry that patient care will be affected when you see just who got these letters saying their jobs are gone in 10 days, including a nurse manager in the emergency room.

The cost-cutting plan is expected to save about 30 million dollars, but that's only about half of the medical center's budget gap. That means they may need to cut even more jobs next year.

Statement from WMC on layoffs

No organization can spend more than it takes in, and it is the unfortunate reality that the state and federal governments have stripped billions of dollars out of the healthcare system, while expenses and costs that are beyond our control are skyrocketing.

WMC remains committed to preserving WMC's core services, maintaining the quality of care we provide and ensuring the long-term fiscal health of the entire Medical Center. This current staff reduction has been implemented so as not to impact the services we provide or the level of direct patient care.

On the horizon, actions are being considered at the state and federal level that will almost certainly further impact the nation's healthcare industry. It is likely that these actions will require hospitals to take a harder look at the services they provide in light of continued reductions in reimbursement for care and a significant influx of people entering publicly supported healthcare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.