Commission holds hearing on Jackson layoffs

Employees air concerns at Miami-Dade County hearing

Published On: Mar 22 2012 01:36:15 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 23 2012 12:45:00 PM EDT

Employees aired their concerns to Miami-Dade County commissioners Thursday at a public hearing on proposed job cuts at Jackson Health System.

Jackson employees showed solidarity over furloughs and staffing cuts expected to save $69 million toward Jackson's bottom line.

"If you think patient care has been negatively affected by the furloughs, please stand up," said Martha Baker, the spokeswoman for Jackson's hospital employee union.

That brought a standing ovation by employees, but they were not applauding the hospital system's leadership. Instead, Jackson doctors and nurses described a workplace plagued by inefficiencies and understaffing.

"We have had patients stay in the (operating room) because we had no beds and all the staff were furloughed," said intensive care nurse Yaakov Reif.

"We cannot let administrators that are bankers and that don't know how to run a hospital get up there and say that 25 percent of our staff nurses are being laid off and patient care is not going to be affected," said emergency room nurse Omayra Hernandez.

Employees also criticized the atmosphere imposed by management.

"We need to keep our mouths shut," said Dr. David Woolsey. "We even had a gag order a couple weeks ago saying that employees and staff were not allowed to talk to the press on campus."

The hospital's CEO, Carlos Migoya, lashed back.

"I wish I could understand how a small group of our employees think we can save Jackson by allowing it to bleed cash that we don't have and by trashing the health care reputation," Migoya said.

Jackson lost $419 million over the past three years. The Miami-Dade County Commission hired Migoya to make fierce financial decisions to get Jackson solvent again. Jackson plans to eliminate 11 percent of its full-time workforce, cutting 1,117 jobs by May 1. That includes the layoffs of 922 people and the elimination of 195 vacant positions. The hospital then plans to hire up to 355 part-time workers.

"This is not a Band-Aid to get us through a budget year, and it is not some sloppy across-the-board swipe to lop off a preconceived number of people," Migoya said.

But, union members and staff members said the cuts are too deep and too broad.

"Jackson is great the way it is, not with a thousand people being gone," said Jackson nurse Michelle Warner.

In the end, Migoya agreed to work with the union for future cuts, but he still holds the scalpel.

"We need to let the CEO do his job," said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell.