NYU is once again prepared to take over the sinking Long Island College Hospital (LICH) after a labor dispute prompted it to jump ship last week, a university spokesperson announced Monday evening. But the New York State Nurse’s Association (NYSNA) is still not on board with the deal. All but 28 of the 400 nurses who LICH employed when the hospital was functioning at full capacity were laid off in May, according to NYSNA, and NYU extended job offers at the new facility to just seven of those nurses.
Four months later, as NYU and the nurse’s union argue over who’s in the wrong, some LICH nurses continue to struggle to find full time hospital employment. This is just the latest wave of nurses who have become victims of mass layoffs by ailing hospitals in recent years.
“I have been out there trying to look for a job, but it’s not easy,” said Desire Gadsden, 64, after last week’s LICH rally. Gadsden worked in LICH’s Coronary Unit for 22 years. “A lot of hospitals today are unable to pay a nurse of my experience.”
Gadsden said she is considering working through one of the many agencies in New York City that place nurses in hospitals on a per diem basis when they’re short-staffed. Agency work comes with some flexibility, but no benefits.
NYSNA declined to release hiring statistics for its LICH members while negotiations with NYU were still pending.
But hospital closings and downsizings are now commonplace in New York City and another union that represents local nurses, SEIU1199, has been tracking what happens to the nurses who lose their jobs as a result. About half have trouble finding full time hospital work again.
Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway, which closed in 2012, and Harlem’s North General, which shut its doors in 2010 are just a couple of the ailing hospitals that have laid off SEIU1199 nurses in the past few years. Deborah King, the union’s Executive Director of Training and Employment, said the breakdown of where the nurses end up after six months has been pretty consistent: about half are placed in unionized hospitals or health care settings; about a quarter either retire or take jobs in different fields or sectors of health care, which are not necessarily unionized; and the remaining 25 percent are still job hunting after six months.
“Some nurses see a layoff as an opportunity to retire or take on less responsibility,” said King, noting that many aging nurses resisted retirement because of the recession.
Most seek another health care position, however, and King said her members sometimes find themselves unprepared for the contemporary health care landscape. For instance, nurses now are more likely to hold an advanced degree than in the past and some hospitals now require a Bachelor’s degree. Others can only find work in clinics or managed care facilities that she says are less likely to be unionized.
But it hasn’t been hard for everyone.
Julie Semente worked as a registered nurse in LICH’s Intensive Care Unit for 32 years before she was laid off in May and she said it took her only 29 days to find another union job at a Brooklyn hospital. Semente said LICH’s high-profile made her job search easier.
“The hospital I’m working at is like a LICH reunion,” said Semente.
There is no word yet on whether NYU will hire additional LICH nurses as part of the new deal.