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Carthage Area Hospital unions to hold vigil Monday night in Turning Point Park

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CARTHAGE — The community hospital is here to stay.

That is the message that members and representatives of the New York State Nurses Association and Service Employees International Union Local 1199 would like to get across about Carthage Area Hospital from 3:30 to 5 p.m. today during a candlelight vigil at Turning Point Park, off State Street.

Last month, the hospital announced that 73 layoffs, a reduction of a combined 20 beds in the hospital’s critical care, medical/surgical and pediatric units and sharing of dietary services with Meadowbrook Terrace are necessary because the hospital cannot afford to keep staff when the number of inpatient visits, in particular, has declined during the past few years. The average daily census for the hospital’s 48 acute care beds has been only eight. Meadowbrook Terrace, a year-old, 60-bed facility, has only 28 residents.

“The main point I want people to know is that the hospital is still functioning,” said Kathleen M. Tucker, Local 1199 vice president. “Nothing has changed; we’re hoping the community understands that. There’s still an emergency room, outpatient services, an inpatient setting and the maternity (unit).”

More than half of the layoffs, 41, were members of Local 1199, which represents dietary and housekeeping staff, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and unit coordinators.

Since those layoffs were announced, Ms. Tucker said, 12 union members have regained employment at the hospital after it opened up new jobs as part of the three consolidated units.

It wasn’t immediately clear Friday how many other laid-off employees were able to find other jobs within the hospital, but the remaining 29 SEIU members either are on unemployment or were offered jobs elsewhere in the community, Ms. Tucker said.

Aware of the changing health care environment, as hospitals face low reimbursement rates, the move from less inpatient to more outpatient settings and other factors, Ms. Tucker said, Local 1199 just wants to ensure the community hospital remains a viable facility.

“Of course, our goal is to preserve the hospital, so we continue to provide high-quality care that’s always been provided,” she said.

Meanwhile, requests for information about the involvement of NYSNA, which represents registered nurses, in the vigil were not returned by 3:30 p.m. Friday. According to a Feb. 13 association letter to the village board, the nurses union anticipates 100 to 200 people will attend the event.

NYSNA originally scheduled an informational picket for Jan. 27, but that was canceled because of inclement weather.

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